FCC names Mayer as enforcement bureau's chief technologist, signals emphasis on consumer protection

The FCC has tapped Jonathan Mayer to be the new chief technology of its Enforcement Bureau who will focus on investigating consumer issues related to telephone, TV and ISPs.

A key focus of his work will be on consumer protection issues, particularly those related to security and privacy, illustrating the regulator's move to step up its focus on protecting consumers' personal data and privacy.

Before coming to the FCC, Mayer studied at Princeton University under the current Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Ed Felten, and later at Stanford, which he recently left for Washington.

What Mayer has become known for is his original research into Internet privacy issues. He helped uncover how Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) was bypassing Apple's Safari browser privacy settings in 2012, which drove the Internet search giant to pay the Federal Trade Commission a $22.5 million settlement.

In January, Mayer's research revealed that an online ad company used a unique code inserted into Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) customers' mobile browsing activities to created "zombie cookies" that could not be deleted.

According to a Washington Post report, what's interesting about Mayer's arrival at the FCC is that it comes as the FCC and the FTC are cooperatively working on online privacy and security issues.

However, the FCC's aggressive approach to protecting privacy is raising concerns from a number of members of Congress.

"We are concerned that the [enforcement bureau] is exceeding its authority by undertaking 'fishing expeditions' rather than investigating specific violations based upon tangible evidence of misconduct," a group of GOP senators wrote to the FCC last week.

Another issue is the implementation of the FCC's net neutrality rules. As part of those rules, the FCC can more closely examine a service provider's privacy policies.

As a result, the FCC could step up its enforcement on privacy and security. It could then mete out financial penalties for service providers that violate the rules.

For more:
- Washington Post has this article

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