The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Alvaro Bedoya to serve in the remaining open seat on the Federal Trade Commission, teeing up tech's de facto federal regulator to begin work on the many big swings it has planned to take at the industry.
Bedoya, a longtime privacy advocate, will serve as the third Democrat on a commission that had, in the Biden administration to date, faced a political deadlock on key issues, as it was staffed by two Democratic commissioners and two Republicans.
While Lina Khan, the agency's chair, has made waves with procedural changes that could help her realize her tough talk on tech, that stalemate has been getting in the way of some of her biggest ambitions. Those could include the filing of an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon following a long investigation, as well as the kickoff of a regulatory effort to rein in data abuse that could see the FTC trying to impose limits on business practices across tech and other industries.
Bedoya would likely oversee much of the latter effort, given his expertise on privacy.
In addition to the usual competition and privacy investigations, the FTC is looking into Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard, suing Meta and rewriting guidelines that would expand what kind of mergers it challenges in tech and other sectors. The FTC also plays a big role in children's privacy, the handling of AI that may violate consumer protection statutes, the uneven lurch toward consumer device-repair rights and the challenges of pervasive digital nudges known dark patterns, and is taking on an expanding role as far as examining labor agreements and the promises of ISPs.
Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that Bedoya's confirmation "sends a clear message to businesses of all sizes: buckle up." The powerful lobbying group has been highly critical of Khan's leadership.
Bedoya's confirmation comes after months of delays in the Senate. The procedural obstacles, failed courting by Bedoya of Republican senators, long recesses and unexpected COVID-19 absences delayed the FTC from implementing its part of the Biden tech agenda until deep into the president's second year in office. Biden had also been slow to nominate Bedoya, but the holdup benefited business interests and Republican lawmakers who have criticized the FTC's expected moves.
On Wednesday, Bedoya was confirmed by the thinnest of margins, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a tiebreaker 51st vote.