On May 11, the Senate voted 51-50 to confirm Alvaro Bedoya as a member of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), requiring Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tie-breaking vote. Bedoya gives Democrats a 3-2 majority at the consumer protection agency.
Bedoya’s confirmation was not a sure thing. Republicans held up his nomination for eight months. In fact, Bedoya needed to be renominated at the beginning of this year by President Biden. Republican lawmakers cited concerns about his positions on free trade, consumer privacy, and even domestic policy.
Bedoya’s career has spanned from a professor at Georgetown University’s law school to the founding director of the school’s Center on Privacy and Technology. Bedoya was also chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, working extensively on data privacy and surveillance issues.
It would not be an understatement to say that Bedoya’s confirmation is polarizing. It has been welcomed broadly by consumer and privacy advocates. It is not as well-received by companies in the consumer financial services space that worry a Democratic majority at the FTC would negatively affect competitive markets. We may see additional agency activity in coming months now that the Democrats have a majority.
Bedoya said in his confirmation hearing last year that he intended to focus on privacy issues, including consumer data and facial recognition. FTC Chair Lina Khan has also signaled that the agency plans to look at data privacy as both a consumer protection and a competition issue.
Here are some of Bedoya’s notable publications:
- In the New Mexico Law Review (Vol. 50, No. 3, 2020), Bedoya published a paper titled, “Privacy as a Civil Right.” “In 2020, the hallmark of surveillance is its ubiquity,” Bedoya writes in the abstract.
- Bedoya drafted the “Location Privacy Protection Act of 2014,” arguing for oversight of telecom companies, specifically regarding customer data, location, and biometric privacy. A frequent example cited by Bedoya was the use of spyware apps on cell phones for abusers to track their spouses.
- Bedoya, Clare Garvie, and Jonathan Frankle published a paper/website, “The Perpetual Line-Up,” in 2016. The authors focused on facial recognition technology and algorithmic bias.