Jon Leibowitz

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Country: USA

Jon Leibowitz is the Chairman of the U.S. Government's Federal Trade Commission (FTC). He was appointed by President Barack Obama on March 2, 2009. As Chairman, he is responsible for leading the agency in protecting consumers against fraud. Within the context of the Internet and technology industry, he supports the promotion of competition and innovation through law enforcement and policy initiatives. He is also focused on protecting consumer privacy on the Internet.[1]

Comments on ICANN

Statement Regarding the New gTLD Program

On December 7, 2011, Mr. Leibowitz expressed his concern over the ICANN's New gTLD Program during a hearing conducted by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet. Although the House inquiry is about "Oversight of the Antitrust Enforcement Agencies," Cong. Bob Goodlatte, chair of the committee asked Leibowitz's opinion regarding the possibility of introducing thousands of TLDs. In response, Leibowitz said that FTC is "very, very concerned that this roll-out of new gTLDs has the potential to be a disaster for consumers and for businesses." He pointed to the inaccuracy of information in the Whois database as the main reason of the concern, as it makes it difficult for law enforcement to track criminals on the internet. He thinks that adding more TLDs would make the situation "exponentially worse." Furthermore, he noted that the program seems to provides few benefits to businesses and consumers and instead causes enormous costs. On the other hand, when Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren asked Leibowitz about ICANN's performance on Internet governance and consumer protection, the FTC chair said, "I don't mean to disparage ICANN itself. I think they do a lot of very good things." [2]

On December 16, following his statement to the subcommittee, Leibowitz sent a letter to ICANN regarding the new gTLD program. In his letter, Leibowitz strongly encouraged ICANN to immediately act and resolve the issues raised by the FTC and ICANN's own Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), particularly on issues related to consumer protection and malicious abuse of the Internet, before implementing the program. He enumerated the recommendations of the FTC in his letter, which include:[3]

  • Implement the new gTLD program as a pilot program. Substantially reduce the number of gTLDs to be introduced during the first round of application.
  • Strengthen ICANN’s contractual compliance program by hiring additional compliance staff.
  • Create a new ongoing program to monitor possible consumer issues that would come up after the implementation of the new gTLD program.
  • Evaluate the risk of consumer harm associated with every proposed new gTLD and include the result of the assessment in the approval process.
  • Improve the accuracy of the Whois data by requiring a registrant verification.

Reaction to Whois Database

In June 2006, Leibowitz attended the ICANN Meeting in Marrakech, Morocco and spoke about the importance of the accuracy of the Whois database to law enforcement in the United States and around the world in protecting consumers. In his statement, the FTC chairman noted that ICANN's Generic Names Supporting Organization's (GNSO) plan to limit the accessibility of the Whois database to only technical inquiries will affect the Commission's ability to carry out its mission to protect consumers from “unfair or deceptive acts or practice." According to Leibowitz, the FTC uses the Whois database in their investigations and they use it as a first step in identifying individuals engaged in illegal Internet activities and stopping them from committing fraud and infecting internet users with spam and spyware. The FTC asked the GNSO to reconsider its position and reverse its decision to limit the accessibility of the Whois database for technical purposes only and encouraged ICANN to implement additional measures to improve the accuracy and completeness of information provided by domain name registrants in the Whois database.[4]

Testimony on Internet Governance: The Future of ICANN

During a hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Trade, Tourism and Economic Development on September 15, 2006, Leibowitz talked about the importance of the Whois database in law enforcement and again noted that a preliminary decision by the GNSO to limit it to technical purposes will jeopardize the Commission's ability to protect consumers. After attending the ICANN Meeting in Morocco, Leibowitz said that ICANN understood the FTC's concern and the GNSO re-evaluated its decision and the internet governing body is "committed in doing the right thing." Furthermore, he said that the US Safe Web Act is another way to collaborate with foreign law enforcement agencies to fight online fraud and protect American consumers in the global market.[5]

Career Background

Mr. Leibowitz began his professional career as an attorney in Washington from 1984 to 1986. Following his private practice, he worked for Senator Paul Simon from 1986-87 and as Chief Counsel for Senator Herb Kohl from 1989-2000. He also served as served as the Democratic Chief Counsel and Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, Senate Sub-Committee on Terrorism and Technology and Senate Sub-Committee on Juvenile Justice. He joined the Motion Picture Association of America as Vice-President for Congressional Affairs for four years before joining the FTC as Commissioner on September 3, 2004. He is a member of the Bar of the District of Columbia.[1]


Mr. Leibowitz received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in American History from the University of Wisconsin and his Degree in Law from New York University School of Law.[1]