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Biden to nominate privacy hawk and facial recognition critic to FTC

The president's latest nomination to the FTC sets the stage for greater scrutiny of Big Tech giants.


Biden plans to nominate a privacy expert to the FTC.

Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Joe Biden said Monday that he plans to nominate online privacy expert Alvaro Bedoya to a seat on the Federal Trade Commission in a move that is expected to lead to greater regulatory scrutiny for Big Tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google. 

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

The news of Bedoya's nomination comes three months after the Senate confirmed antitrust expert Lina Khan, another Biden appointee and critic of Big Tech companies, to the FTC. Khan, who has been critical of Amazon and Facebook, now chairs the agency. Bedoya's addition to the FTC bolsters expectations that the FTC will continue to scrutinize the unprecedented influence of Big Tech giants, like Amazon, Facebook, and Google. 

Bedoya, who was born in Peru, has raised concerns through his academic research on surveillance technology and how its use by the US government can have devastating effects on immigrants and people of color. Bedoya previously worked as a staffer for former Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat of Minnesota, and he became the first chief counsel of the US Senate Judiciary subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law. This subcommittee has held several hearings on location tracking and issues around the National Security Agency surveillance program since 2011. 

Digital rights advocates applauded Bedoya's nomination. Emily Peterson-Cassin of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen called Bedoya a "great choice to fill out the strongest FTC we've seen in decades."

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron called Bedoya, who previously served on the board at Free Press, a brilliant thinker and accomplished advocate on privacy and technology issues. 

"He is someone who will push for smart and bold policies at this reinvigorated 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 across the public-interest community, skills 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 round out Biden's picks to the FTC, which is tasked with enforcing consumer protection laws. Bedoya would take the seat currently occupied by Democratic Commissioner Rohit Chopra, who is awaiting confirmation to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The FTC is composed 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 a single political party.