Obama picks Edith Ramirez to lead FTC

President Obama will designate Edith Ramirez as the next chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, a White House official said on Thursday.

Ramirez, a Democrat who attended Harvard Law School with Obama, has served as an FTC commissioner since April 2010. She will take over the chairman's spot from Jon Leibowitz, who announced his plans to step down earlier this month.

By tapping a current commissioner, Obama is able to skip the Senate confirmation process because sitting commissioners have already been confirmed by the upper chamber.

However, the move will open up one of the Democratic vacancies on the five-member commission.

"Ramirez brings decades of experience and will continue to fulfill the FTC’s mission by protecting consumers from fraud, deception, and unfair business practices as well as maintaining competition to prevent anticompetitive mergers and business practices in the marketplace," the administration official said.

"Over the past few years Ramirez has been instrumental in ensuring there is robust competition and innovation in the high tech marketplace, and has worked hard to protect the most vulnerable communities," the official added.

Obama chose Ramirez over Julie Brill, her Democratic counterpart on the commission. Brill, who has a reputation of being an aggressive consumer advocate, was widely believed to want the agency's top job, and had been ramping up her public appearances in recent months.

Before joining the commission, Ramirez worked on antitrust and intellectual property issues in private practice. She worked in the Los Angeles office of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and as an associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, also in Los Angeles. She also served as a clerk for Judge Alfred T. Goodwin on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 1992 to 1993. 

Ramirez worked on Obama's 2008 campaign as his director of Latino outreach, and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review when Obama was its president.

On the commission, Ramirez has backed efforts to toughen online privacy protections. The commission settled charges with Facebook, Google and other companies for failing to follow their own privacy policies.

Ramirez voted with her Democratic colleagues to expand regulations aimed at protecting the online privacy of children, and endorsed a proposal to allow Internet users to opt out of online tracking by third-party advertisers, a feature known as "Do Not Track."

Last month, the FTC closed its nearly two-year antitrust investigation into Google's search practices. Ramirez joined the commission's decision to take no action against Google over allegations that it manipulates its search results to boost its own services.

Jeff Chester, executive director of privacy advocacy group Center for Digital Democracy, said Ramirez will be a "thoughtful and effective leader of an agency."

"Under her leadership, we expect the FTC to blaze new ground on privacy — especially involving mobile devices, digital data brokers and Do Not Track," Chester said.

Gigi Sohn, president of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, also applauded the choice.

"She has been a strong voice for patent reform, and she understands that as technology becomes an ever greater part of our lives, competition and consumer protection policy must adapt," Sohn said.

- This story was originally published at 9:38 a.m. and updated at 11:30 a.m.