Biden to nominate privacy hawk and facial recognition critic to FTC

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Biden plans to nominate a privacy expert for the FTC.

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President Biden announced Monday that he plans to nominate online privacy expert Alvaro Bedoya to a seat on the Federal Trade Commission, raising hopes of more regulatory scrutiny for big tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google.

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Bedoya, founder of Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology, has been a prominent critic of facial recognition software and other surveillance technologies, which his research indicates threatens the civil rights of marginalized groups and minorities in the US.

The news of Bedoya’s nomination has come after three months. Senate confirms antitrust expert Leena Khan, appointed another Biden and Critics of Big Tech Companies, to the FTC. Khan, a critic of Amazon and Facebook, is now the chairman of the agency. Bedoya’s joining the FTC reinforces hopes that the FTC will continue to investigate the unprecedented influence of big tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook and Google.

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Bedoya, who was born in Peru, has expressed concern through his academic research on surveillance technology and its use by the US government could have devastating effects on immigrants and people of color. Bedoya previously worked as a staffer for former Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, and became the first chief counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and Law. This subcommittee has held several hearings since 2011 on issues related to location tracking and the National Security Agency surveillance program.

Digital rights advocates hailed Bedoya’s nomination. Emily Peterson-Cassin of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen called Bedoya “a great option to fill the strongest FTC we’ve seen in decades.”

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aarons called on Bedoya, who previously served on the board at Free Press, as a prolific thinker and proficient advocate on privacy and technology issues.

“He is the kind of person who will push smart and bold policies into this strong agency and ensure that the impacts and needs of immigrants and communities of color are a priority,” he said in a statement. “He has long been a trusted and strategic ally in the public interest community, a skill that will serve him well in this new role.”

Bedoya’s nomination will be sent to the Senate, which will then vote on his nomination. If confirmed, Bedoya would pass Biden’s choice to the FTC, which is tasked with enforcing consumer protection laws. Bedoya will take the seat currently occupied by Democratic Commissioner Rohit Chopra, who is awaiting confirmation to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The FTC is made up of five commissioners who vote on enforcement actions and policy decisions. The independent agency is designed to operate with no more than three commissioners from the same political party.

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