Greetings from Portsmouth, New Hampshire!
The IAPP is welcoming U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan to the keynote stage at the Global Privacy Summit 2022 in Washington, D.C., next month. It's an exciting addition to a stacked program, but her appearance is arguably the must-see portion of the conference for those zeroed in on the U.S. privacy landscape.
There is no telling what Khan has in store for her remarks, but they will be some of the first privacy-focused comments we've heard from the chair, who is inching closer to the one-year anniversary of her appointment. Beyond a preliminary motion to begin a privacy rulemaking that's likely to take years to complete, we've only heard bits and pieces of Khan's privacy visions.
Much of the relative status quo and silence we've witnessed to may have more to do with limitations than unwillingness to act. There's a lot working against the FTC, including limited resources and an ongoing commissioner vacancy that's creating a party-line stalemate on pending work that may require a majority vote. Both issues hampering Khan and the commission are at the mercy of U.S. Congress.
First, Congress failed to pass the Build Back Better Act. At one point that proposal would've given the FTC $1 billion in new funding for a privacy division before being trimmed to $500 million. Either figure could've been transformative, but lawmakers haven't indicated whether limited discussions to revive parts of the Build Back Better proposal would include the funding provision.
While the FTC can ultimately make do without additional funding, it can't be wholly effective without a full commissioner roster. Commissioner nominee Alvaro Bedoya is in the midst of a second tour through the Senate confirmation process after his initial nomination expired at the end of the 2021 calendar year. Recent reports suggest Bedoya's nomination could soon make it to a full Senate vote, but a return of prior political cards that have been played to hold up the process are always possible to return.
It all amounts to some unexpected hurdles in what was expected to be a transformative period for the Khan-led commission. Any reassurances Khan may try to offer on the intended direction of the FTC will likely be met with a mix of concurrence and rebuttal from FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips, who is also slated to speak during a breakout session at GPS.
It's going to make for some interesting privacy theatre, which IAPP Staff Writer Jennifer Bryant and I will hopefully bring to life in our GPS coverage for those of you unable to attend the conference.
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