Gillibrand Bill Would Create Data Protection Agency

Give it civil penalty fining and other powers as new privacy sheriff in town
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Kirsten Gillibrand

Kirsten Gillibrand

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is proposing to create a new government watchdog agency charged with giving Americans control over their data. 

The senator cited edge giants in a Medium post on the need for a watchdog.  

"The tech giants — Google and Facebook among them — have been the clear winners of our transition to the digital age," she wrote. "These companies have built major empires of data with information about our private lives. They’re processing that information with increasingly complex and sophisticated algorithms. And they’re making a whole lot of money off of it." 

The Data Protection Act would create the Data Protection Agency (DPA), an independent agency, like the FCC and Federal Trade Commission, that would safeguard privacy and ensure fair and transparent data practices. 

Currently the Federal Trade Commission is the principal privacy enforcer, focused on conduct that is either deceptive or anticompetitive. It lacks muscular rulemaking or civil fining authority and must instead rely on filing suits and striking settlement agreements. 

Either the DPA or Congress would create the privacy rules, then DPA would enforce them, including via civil penalties, injunctive relief and other remedies. 

One of the things the DPA would guard against, she said, is "'pay-for-privacy' or 'take-it-or-leave-it' provisions in service contracts." She said online privacy is a right, and one that needs to be enforced.   

Giilibrand said the U.S. is one of only a few democracies without a federal data protection agency. 

"Data has been called 'the new oil," the senator wrote. "Companies are rushing to explore and refine it, ignoring regulations, putting profits above responsibility, and treating consumers as little more than dollar signs. Like the oil boom, little thought is being given to the long-term consequences. 

"So as we stare down the barrel of threats from foreign adversaries trying to target personal data in consumer households, businesses, and government agencies, the data privacy space remains a complete and total Wild West. And that is a huge problem," and one she said the DPA could solve.  

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