FTC Appoints Acting Chief Technologist to Advise on Privacy

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By George Lynch

Neil Alan Chilson has been named as the FTC’s Acting Chief Technologist, the FTC announced July 18.

Chilson will advise Acting Federal Trade Commission Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen and the commission on technology matters, including in enforcement actions. He previously served as an attorney adviser to the acting commissioner on technology, privacy, and data security. The FTC exercises consumer privacy and data security regulatory authority over many businesses, including tech giants Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Microsoft Corp.

Ohlhausen said he will also manage “the FTC’s effort to better understand informational harms.”

Ohlhausen has indicated that the FTC will continue its data security enforcement activity, but with an increased demand that action be prompted by actual harm to consumers, instead of the current standard of “likely to cause substantial injury.”

The move to a stronger focus on actual harm comes amid ongoing litigation by defunct medical testing company LabMD’s challenging the FTC’s authority to enforce data security under its broad consumer protection mission. LabMD also argues that the FTC should require actual harm from a data breach of personal information rather than a potential harm tied to the “likely to cause substantial injury” standard.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit heard oral argument in the case June 21.

Chilson was a telecommunications and privacy attorney at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP. In addition to his law law degree from the George Washington University Law School, Chilson has a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

To contact the reporter on this story: George Lynch in Washington at glynch@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at daplin@bna.com

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