US watchdog seeks techies, interns to sink gums into Google et al

You asked for miracles, Theo, I give you the FBI: the FTC Bureau of Indecision

The US Federal Trade Commission has put up the "help wanted" sign for a new office tasked with investigating American technology giants. El Reg hopes the new team has more backbone that the officials unwilling to pick a fight with Silicon Valley's out-of-control goliaths.

The FTC said its Office of Technology Research and Investigation (OTRI) will probe cases of privacy abuse, computer security lapses, the protection of payment cards, the development of car technology, the emergence of home automation, and the all-inclusive "internet of things" moniker.

The OTRI will replace the Mobile Technology Unit, an outfit that focused on smartphones and whatnot. The commission hopes the expanded team will be able to tackle wider swathes of the valley.

"Today, I am pleased to announce the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s newest initiative to help ensure that consumers enjoy the benefits of technological progress without being placed at risk of deceptive and unfair practices – the formation of BCP’s Office of Technology Research and Investigation," wrote FTC Consumer Protection Bureau head Jessica Rich.

"The OTRI will continue the great work performed by the Mobile Technology Unit, but will take on an even broader mandate and be staffed with additional technologists."

The FTC has taken some heat for its handling of the technology world as of late, particularly its dealings with Google. Internal documents that conveniently found their way into reporters' hands showed that even though FTC investigators found evidence Google abused its dominant position on the web to harm competitors, the regulator declined to bring any complaint or charges against the powerful advertising giant. Google is adamant it has broken no antitrust laws.

The FTC said the expansion of the old mobile tech unit into the OTRI will create a permanent position: a research coordinator to head up the group and write guidance reports for FTC top brass.

Additionally, a technology policy researcher is needed on a two-year contract. This role is ideal for a graduate, and whoever gets it will serve as a technical adviser and researcher for FTC attorneys and investigators, and will be expected to come up with research strategies for the office.

Finally, the OTRI wants student labor interns to fill out its ranks: enlistees will spend a semester helping staff collect evidence and analyze information.

The FTC's expanded office could find itself butting heads with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) down the road. The FCC expanded its own regulatory reach with a sweeping new set of regulations aimed at enforcing Google's FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's idea of net neutrality. ®

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