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Senate confirms FTC nominee Bedoya, giving agency 3-2 Democratic majority

The Senate confirmed Alvaro Bedoya on May 11 to be a third Democratic commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris broke the tie on the 50-50 vote tally on the Senate floor, giving Congress the necessary push to wrap up the confirmation process.

Bedoya, the director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University Law Center and a former Senate aide who has specialized in privacy and facial recognition technology, was nominated by President Biden in September 2021.

The FTC under agency leader Lina Khan is focused on potentially anti-competitive behavior by Big Tech companies, as well as certain rulemakings related to reforming existing privacy regulations. For months, Khan has been unable to advance more contentious consumer protection proposals against Big Tech companies without a Democratic majority.

The agency may soon initiate a rulemaking to address commercial surveillance tools and lax data security practices, Khan announced at a privacy conference last month. Bedoya's presence as commissioner could help build momentum for that rulemaking to pass.

Reactions to the confirmation poured in quickly.

"Alvaro's knowledge, experience, and energy will be a great asset to the FTC as we pursue our critical work. I’m excited to begin working with him, along with our other Commissioners, once his appointment is made final by President Biden," Khan said in a tweet.

Aurelien Portuese, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation's director of antitrust and innovation policy, said that the 3-2 lineup at the agency would push the FTC to pursue "legally questionable and economically harmful" rulemakings.

"The new majority FTC should focus on enforcing laws that benefit consumers rather than creating rules that may harm both innovation and economic growth," Portuese said in a statement.

Consumer protection advocates applauded the confirmation.

Charlotte Slaiman, competition policy director at Public Knowledge, said in a statement that the FTC is now fully equipped to "launch bold cases" to bolster competition and consumer protection.

"I know we can trust Commissioner Bedoya to stand up to powerful corporations and look out for the interests of the most vulnerable," Slaiman said.

The FTC is currently investigating tech giants like Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. to determine whether they block out competition and harm consumers, among other accusations.

Since the mid 2010s, dozens of anti-competitive and consumer harm probes have been launched against Big Tech by the FTC, as well as individual U.S. states and the European Union. This has led to bills in the U.S. Senate and large-scale regulatory packages in the European Commission.

In the U.S., the FTC would be responsible for enforcing many of the provisions listed in Big Tech legislation.

In January, officials at the FTC and U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division announced a "broad-based overhaul" of existing merger guidelines aimed at better evaluating competition within specific markets, as well as potential competitive threats to emerging businesses. A draft of those guidelines is expected to be released later this year.