E123 – Interview with Former FTC Commissioner & Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen

Maureen K Ohlhausen
Maureen K Ohlhausen

In this episode Dave, Matt and Elmer were lucky to have a special guests to dig into a number of topics that digital marketers and business owners sometimes freak out about.

If you are interested in the intersection of antitrust with other things like data security, privacy and intellectual property you can check out the 2019 Antitrust Fall Forum Tech Summit in Washington, DC in a few weeks or be on the look out for more events put on by the ABA.

Note from Dave & Matt – the following summary is just that, a summary. We tried to only summarize what Maureen (and all on the podcast) said and it is not a word for word transcript by any means. We HIGHLY encourage you to dig in and listen to get all the details. This summary is not quotes but just us trying to summarize.

Can you explain the scope of where the FTC does get involved and where it doesn’t at a high level?

i.e What does the FTC do really? For the FTC’s answer you can read the site.

The FTC’s goal is to promote antitrust competition and to protect consumers. In short the FTC has broad authority but historically doesnt have oversite to common carriers – railroads, old phone system or airlines.

In today’s world the FTC looks at mergers across a wide range of industry but gets more attention since the start of the internet is around privacy, advertising, and fraud.

The EU has the GDPR, California has the CCPA and the US has…?

The second part to the long question:

Do you see something between the GDPR and CCPA coming to all of the US?

Maureen digs into the question in two parts but also brings up some cases that the FTC in recent years has brought up or been part of.

As far as the GDPR vs CCPA vs Something else it is likely something we will see sooner rather than later. The group digs into how and what a state by state CCPA type thing will simply be chaotic for business. Maureen points out that the GDPR was the EU’s solution to this type of chaos. We shall see how the USA handles the state vs federal privacy laws and when it will happen and what it will look like.

For more on the evolving nature of the CCPA:

Maureen points out that it is possible that whatever is finally passed may be setup similar to Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

EU Competition Law vs. US Antitrust

More specifically the question asked:

Other countries have antitrust or competition laws that are similar to but not identical to the laws in the US. How does that coordination among different countries work and what does it mean for the big tech companies?

Elmer brought up Google vs Amazon vs Microsoft vs Apple in terms of their tech and their closed eco-systems. How does the FTC and other groups see consumer choice and ease for consumers (or consumer choice) vs. tech running into antitrust.

For more on antitrust we also did an episode in late 2018 about Google & Antitrust.

What do you think will be the next “antitrust case of the century?”

In terms of future antitrust cases that the US may bring, Maureen lays out some points from the Microsoft case that may be used again in the future.

A few recent articles state similar things around Microsoft and antitrust today:

5 Lessons From Microsoft’s Antitrust Woes, by People Who Lived It

The Microsoft Antitrust Case*

Fake Reviews & Fake Followers

Matt & Dave brought up the topic of sponsored or not sponsored posts on social media, fake followers, fake reviews and how or what the FTC is doing about these things.

Maureen gave an interesting answer that we recommend you listen too but also we suggest you look and follow their guidelines. There is no silver bullet other than to follow their guidelines, flag sponsored posts, and if you are not sure check out the Federal Trade Commission Act – Section 5: Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices.

Here are some more review and follower related links:


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