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From gadfly to bureaucrat: The FTC’s new chief technology officer

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Edward Felten, one of the most incisive minds of the digital age, has been appointed the chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission.

Scientific American gave the Princeton professor an award in 2003 for his critiques of digital privacy.

The squib we ran at the time read:

"Corporations intent on monopolizing the digital economy have come to fear Edward Felten, who has fought their claims with technical analysis sharpened by a sense of the ridiculous. When Microsoft, in its antitrust case, claimed that its browser could not be separated from its operating system, Felten separated them. When the Recording Industry Association of America unveiled a music-encryption technology, he found holes in it (and was almost sued for publishing the holes). Now he is fighting Hollywood’s efforts to introduce legislation mandating privacy devices for all digital products, particularly digital television. In testimony before Congress, he pointed out that a would-be pirate could already videotape a movie for a few dollars rather than go the digital route, which would cost hundreds of dollars. His Web site posts comical examples of devices, such as toys, that a proposed law would digitally bind and gag."

See Felten’s Wikipedia entry for the long list of similar tussles.

What of a gadfly taking on the ponderous title of "chief technologist"? Wonderful. It’s great when the best of the best make their way to Washington.

Image credit: Princeton University

 





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