The House Energy and Commerce Committee teed up legislation Monday as part of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that would include $1 billion for the Federal Trade Commission over the next decade to build a new Data Security Bureau.
The bill would set aside at least $1 billion through 2031 to “create and operate a bureau to accomplish the work of the Commission related to unfair or deceptive practices relating to privacy, data security, identity theft, data abuses” and other matters.
There are virtually no details or direction in the legislation about how the bureau should be set up, what specific areas of privacy or security regulation it would focus on, staffing needs or how it might interact with other components at the FTC.
Much of the hearing Monday was dominated by larger debates about the potential impact of the reconciliation bill on inflation or the U.S. oil and gas industry. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., hammered the idea for being ill-considered and warned of dire consequences if the bill passed in its current form, though he and every other Republican on the committee took an identical tone to describe virtually every section of the bill they were debating.
“This hyper partisan spending package includes $1 billion to the Federal Trade Commission under the guise of a privacy bureau, but without virtually any guardrails or federal privacy framework for how FTC would use those funds,” he said. “This is not well thought out, it’s not well thought out legislation to take on big tech as marketed but rather a war chest for the most radical elements of this administration to go after any business on any sector over anything.”
The bill markup came the same day that Axios reported Georgetown professor and privacy advocate Alvaro Bedoya will be nominated by the Biden administration as a Democratic commissioner to the FTC. Bedoya confirmed the news publicly shortly thereafter.
"It is the honor of my life to be nominated to serve on the FTC," he said. "When my family landed at JFK in 1987 with 4 suitcases and a grad student stipend, this was not what we expected."
The move received praise from Democrats in Congress and privacy advocates. Amie Stepanovich, a lawyer and executive director at Silicon Valley Flatirons, a research center based at the University of Colorado Boulder, said Bedoya’s “work looking at privacy from the point of view of those who have been discriminated against by society is exactly what we all need.” Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., called the move “fantastic news.”
“Alvaro is an immensely talented attorney and privacy advocate who will be a champion for consumers and workers at the FTC,” Cicilline tweeted after the news was reported. “I look forward to working together to restore competition in our economy and protect Americans’ privacy.”