Q&A with Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras

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AA: How do you balance the wide range of duties at the FTC?

Mrs. Platt Majoras: The key is to not just be driven by what is hot. There is a lot that is going on that is our bread and butter, that is extremely important to consumers, garden-variety fraud and deception. It's extremely important because we are the ones who are going to go after that.

AA: How have you shifted the FTC's resources?

Ms. Platt Majoras: Can-Spam [anti-spam legislation] is now in effect and we are hotly pursuing cases. Identity theft we were spending a lot of time on ... and the data-security area. The FTC has been pressed into fighting spam and phishing.

Another priority is on food marketing to children. Obesity. [When I came in] I saw a growing debate where we could contribute a great deal of knowledge and experience.

AA: What can you do about phising?

Ms. Platt Majoras: Educate the consumers. If you compare the resources it takes us to track down, investigate and prosecute a phisher vs. [what would happen] if I could just get every consumer to just hit the delete button on these things. ... that would be a much better way of taking care of the problem. I have a group in the Bureau of Consumer Protection who looks at what new technologies coming down the line [like pharming and evil twin] that may present new consumer issues for us so we can try to anticipate them.

AA: You've said you won't ban food advertising to kids.

Ms. Platt Majoras: We are not going to try to go back to the 1970s and ban food advertising to kids. It's a dead letter under the First Amendment and has a host of practical difficulties. The FTC learned its lesson. That is not where we want to be.

AA: As a parent what do you think of food advertising?

Ms. Platt Majoras: The first responsibility lies with parents. Marketing is very persuasive and so is the taste of the food when kids taste it the first time. My own view is it's important to teach kids what they ought to be eating. I watched my sister's kids two weeks ago fighting over broccoli. Advertising should be part of the solution. We have a lot of smart people out there in the business. We ought to be able to figure out how to make the healthy food more attractive.

AA: What are your favorite ads?

Ms. Platt Majoras: I love the Visa "Priceless" campaign [an aide reminded her the ad was for MasterCard], where guy buys one new putter, a second new putter, buys eight new putters. Then he finally chips one in from the bunker. "Not having to putt: priceless." That one made me laugh. Most of the ads are from sports because that's almost all I watch on television.

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