Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said Monday that the leaks by Edward Snowden about National Security Agency surveillance have led to a positive public discussion about privacy.
“It’s been a catalyst for very healthy debate for privacy generally,” she said during a discussion at a technology conference at the University of Colorado, saying the leaks “put a spotlight on the issue more broadly.”
Ramirez emphasized that her agency has jurisdiction over only the commercial sector and that she wasn’t making any comment about the national security impact of Snowden’s actions. But she argued that the news alerted people to how changing technologies have allowed for the tracking and collection of information about nearly their every action online.
The FTC, an independent executive-branch agency, is the main regulator for commercial privacy issues. The agency uses its power over “unfair” or “deceptive” business practices to sue companies like Facebook and Google that violate the terms of their own privacy policies.
Obama named Ramirez as chairwoman of the agency last year. She had served as one of the five FTC commissioners since 2010.
The Snowden leaks have also damaged the reputation of the U.S. overseas, Ramirez said at Monday’s conference. She argued that it’s important that the United States coordinate its privacy rules with authorities in Europe and elsewhere.
The news reports about how the NSA spies on foreign citizens and leaders have undermined trust in the United States on privacy issues and hurt its ability to negotiate, she said.
What We're Following See More »
"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."