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Surveillance skeptic nominated to U.S. Federal Trade Commission

Surveillance skeptic nominated to U.S. Federal Trade Commission

The White House wants to draw a harder line on what is appropriate use of biometric surveillance.

For his nomination to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), President Joe Biden has chosen a well-known skeptic of the indiscriminate use of facial recognition systems by businesses and government agencies.

The move will buy the president some goodwill with progressives within the Democratic Party who want more assertive leadership in civil rights, which they feel include protection from prying corporate eyes.

Alvaro Bedoya, founder of Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology, faces months of waiting, politicking and, presumably, grilling in the U.S. Senate before he can be confirmed. The Peru native was the first chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary’s subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law.

As noted by The Washington Post, Bedoya has earned the respect of conservatives and liberals on Capitol Hill. He has been described as intelligent and deliberative by Noah Phillips, an FTC commissioner nominated by the previous administration.

If confirmed, Bedoya likely will become an unwilling participant in straw-man arguments holding large technology companies as a source of discontent in U.S. society.

The Post frames the nomination as a proposed “check on Big Tech.” But the story, like others, chronicles Bedoya’s thoughts on holding the line on personal privacy, on holding those wielding face biometrics for surveillance in check without tilting at the industry or specific companies.

While not as aggressive as some would like the FTC’s stance to be, the agency has not been idle.

In January, Paravision settled allegations before the commission that in its previous incarnation as Everalbum, maker of the Ever photo app, it deceived consumers. The Ever service, part of Everalbum’s product line, was updated in 2017 to use facial recognition on group photos, allegedly making face scanning the default setting.

The ruling ordered Paravision to delete its algorithms “enhanced by any improperly obtained photos,” which the company says had already been retired.

Commissioner Rohit Chopra at the time issued a statement condemning facial recognition surveillance techniques as “discriminatory and dangerous.”

Chopra would be replaced by Bedoya if Chopra’s nomination to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is confirmed in the Senate.

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