Watchdogs Urge Senate To Confirm Privacy Expert Bedoya To FTC

Dozens of consumer advocacy groups are urging the Senate to quickly confirm privacy expert Alvaro Bedoya to the Federal Trade Commission.

“When it comes to holding Big Tech monopolies accountable, time is of the essence,” Accountable Tech, the Center for Digital Democracy, Demand Progress and 33 other organizations said Monday in a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washigton), who heads the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

The groups add that former Facebook employee Frances Haugen's Senate testimony earlier this month “made clear that regulators need to immediately clamp down on Big Tech’s abusive behavior, lest the damage become irreversible.”

Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, told lawmakers that Facebook repeatedly chose profits over protecting users from potentially harmful content. 

Last month, President Joe Biden nominated Bedoya to serve as an FTC commissioner. If approved, he will replace Rohit Chopra, who now heads the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Until Chopra's replacement is approved, the FTC will have two Democratic commissioners and two Republicans.

The advocacy groups tell lawmakers that the FTC's functions “will be stymied as long as Chopra’s former FTC seat is left vacant.”

They add: “A prolonged deadlock on the FTC only stands to create further obstacles for the agency as it works to hold Big Tech giants accountable.”

Bedoya, the founding director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, is known for proposing curbs on the use of facial-recognition technology.

Under his leadership, the Center on Privacy & Technology published the influential 2016 report “Perpetual Line Up,” which revealed that photos of more than 117 million U.S. adults were in databases accessible by law enforcement officials seeking to deploy facial-recognition software.

That report also concluded that the use of facial-recognition technology by law enforcement will disproportionately affect African Americans, and that the technology may be least accurate for African Americans.

Bedoya has also criticized the commercial use of surveillance technology -- including tracking software that can monitor people's television use by embedding audio beacons in TV ads.

He previously served as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law and its former chairman, Sen. Al Franken (D.-Minnesota).

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