On Wednesday, the Senate voted to confirm privacy expert Alvaro Bedoya to the Federal Trade Commission. The confirmation ensured a democratic majority vote at the agency tasked by the Biden administration to investigate major technology companies such as Facebook and Google for possible data privacy and competition breaches.
Vice President Kamala Harris voted to break a 50-50 tie on the Senate floor to finalize Bedoya’s confirmation.
Bedoya will replace former Commissioner Rohit Chopra, who left the FTC last year to head the Office of Consumer Finance Protection. Prior to his confirmation, Bedoya was a Georgetown law professor with a focus on privacy law, founding the university’s Center on Privacy and Technology in 2014. In his academic career, Bedoya has explored the disproportionate effects of surveillance on minorities, particularly regarding facial recognition technology.
Bedoya was first appointed to the FTC last September, but his confirmation process was stalled by Republican opposition to his appointment. After several canceled and rescheduled committee hearings and votes last year, the Senate Business Committee voted 14–14 in March, requiring a move to download by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to bring a final vote to the floor.
In April, Axios reported that the US Chamber of Commerce urged lawmakers to delay Bedoya’s confirmation.
Alvaro’s knowledge, experience and energy will be of great value to the FTC as we continue our critical work. I am pleased to begin working with him, along with our other commissioners, after his appointment is finalized by President Biden.
– Lina Khan (@linakhanFTC) May 11, 2022
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) continued to pressure lawmakers to oppose Bedoya’s confirmation and urged the White House to withdraw his nomination. In a floor speech Tuesday, McConnell said, “He’s basically a foolish choice.” He continued, “I would urge my colleagues on both sides to stop this terrible appointment so that the president can reconsider and send us someone suitable.”
Bedoya’s confirmation comes when the FTC tightened its scrutiny over the technology industry, led by President Lina Khan. The commission has previously promised to accept illegal “right to fix” restrictions and is reportedly in the process of investigating Meta’s VR division for possible antitrust violations.
In a statement Wednesday, Khan said “Alvaro’s knowledge, experience and energy will be of great value to the FTC as we continue our critical work.”
Updated May 11, 3:39 PM ET: Included statement by FTC President Lina Khan.