FTC Hires Hacker to Help With Privacy Issues. It Didn't Last.

    Date18 Nov 2010
    CategoryGovernment
    3229
    Posted ByAlex
    Chris Soghoian is an unlikely federal official. In 2006 he built a tool that let you print fake boarding passes for Northwest Airlines ( NWA - news - people ) to highlight a TSA security flaw. Unamused, the FBI raided his house (he was never charged with a crime). A year later he mapped where California company Biofilm shipped tubes of its sexual lubricant Astroglide using data the company put online. He claimed Biofilm violated privacy laws, but authorities declined to investigate, saying no financial data was exposed. "Just names, phone numbers, addresses and the fact that you requested sex lube," grumps Soghoian.

    Given this history, he was surprised when the Federal Trade Commission offered him a job in 2009. Soghoian, 29, was the first of a handful of technologists the agency recruited to investigate corporations for violating consumers' privacy. The FTC needed tech geeks to help it understand privacy on the Web, and Soghoian, an Indiana University informatics-and-computing Ph.D. candidate fresh off a Harvard law and technology fellowship, accepted the offer for pragmatic reasons. "We have one privacy regulator at the federal level in this country--the FTC," says Soghoian.

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