A technical expert who helped The Washington Post decipher complex National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden is now going to join the government.
The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday that it has appointed Ashkan Soltani as its new chief technologist. He will provide technical advice to the agency, putting him in place to help the government crackdown on private companies that illegally invade their customers' privacy.
What he won't be doing anymore, however, is exposing government surveillance programs that were intended to be secret.
Soltani has worked as a technical expert for state attorneys general, and has provided advice to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He won the Pulitzer Prize this year as a co-author on The Washington Post's coverage of the Snowden documents. He helped the other journalists understand the massive batch of documents and accurately describe the NSA's controversial programs, which sweep up millions of phone and Internet records. Earlier in his career, Soltani worked for two technology companies.
He previously worked as a staff technologist at the FTC from 2010 to 2011.
Soltani will succeed Latanya Sweeney as the FTC's chief technologist next month. Sweeney will return to Harvard University, where she directs the Data Privacy Lab.
The FTC has the authority to go after companies for "unfair" or "deceptive" business practices. In the past, it has sued Silicon Valley giants such as Google and Facebook for allegedly violating their own privacy policies. It has also sued companies that failed to adequately protect customer information from hackers, and it is currently investigating Target.
The FTC also enforces rules for how websites and apps must handle the personal information of children.
"Technology and online and mobile platforms are continuing to evolve at a rapid pace and will remain a key focus for the FTC, as more and more consumers adopt mobile devices and tablets," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. "I am pleased to welcome Ashkan to our talented team where he will play a vital role in continuing our important work on behalf of American consumers."
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