FTC chairman resigns after 4 years of online privacy, Google battles

Consumer privacy watchdog leaving in mid-February

Google search

Considered an aggressive defender of online privacy, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chief Jon Leibowitz will leave his post later this month after battling everyone from generic drug companies to social networking giant Facebook.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Chairman Leibowitz resigned from his position, effective mid-February, ending a 4-year tenure that saw him push for better consumer online privacy protection.

The most recent case involves alleged violations of the Children's Online Privacy Protections Act (COPPA) against social network Path, which reached a settlement Friday after addressing concerns over children under 13 gaining permission to sign up for the service.

"I felt like this was a good time to leave because we got through a number of things that I wanted the commission to address," Leibowitz explained in an interview.

What's next

The chairman's most recent high profile case put Google's search results under the microsocope, an effort which ultimately led to voluntary changes that fell short of what consumer advocates had hoped for.

Advertisers claimed Google had given higher priority to companies with interests that aligned with the Mountain View company's, at the same time reducing the presence of competitors.

Five FTC commissioners were unanimous in their decision that the company's actions actually benefitted users, even though some were considered less than helpful to competitors.

The departure of 54-year-old Leibowitz had been widely expected, and the chairman now plans a move into the private sector, where he'll continue to focus on privacy issues and anticompetitive practices.