Senate Confirms Privacy Expert Bedoya To FTC

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed privacy expert Alvaro Bedoya to the Federal Trade Commission by a 51-50 party-line vote, with Vice-President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.

His confirmation gives the FTC a Democratic majority for the first time during the Biden administration, which could position FTC Chair Lina Khan to move forward with privacy regulations and other potentially divisive initiatives.

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

He has also criticized the commercial use of monitoring technology -- including tracking software that embeds 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, Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota).

Republican lawmakers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed Bedoya's confirmation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) on Tuesday called on the White House to reconsider Bedoya's nomination.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce last month urged the Senate to delay a confirmation vote until lawmakers probed Bedoya's views on the FTC's power to issue rules regarding behavioral targeting, among other topics.

“FTC is at an inflection point,” Chamber chief policy officer Neil Bradley said in an April 20 letter to Senate leaders. “Mr. Bedoya would be the fifth member of the Commission and his vote would break potential deadlocks over changes in policy or an enforcement matter.”

Consumer advocacy groups cheered news of the vote, while also urging the Senate to confirm Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn, best known as a net neutrality advocate.

“Alvaro Bedoya's appointment will finally allow this vital and reinvigorated agency to get to work on protecting people, promoting competition and holding powerful companies accountable,” Free Press Action Co-CEO Craig Aaron stated Tuesday.

“Now we urge the Senate to move with the greatest urgency to fill other key regulatory roles that have been vacant since President Biden took office -- starting with a vote as soon as possible to confirm Gigi Sohn as FCC commissioner,” Aaron added. 

In March, the Senate Commerce Committee voted 14-14 on Sohn's nomination, effectively paving the way for a vote by the full Senate.

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