Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Thursday proposed creating a new federal agency to protect people’s data privacy, arguing that it would “bring the protection of your privacy and freedom into the digital age.”
Gillibrand, in a Medium post, unveiled the Data Protection Act, a bill that would establish a new federal agency called the Data Protection Agency (DPA) that would enforce data protection rules, promote privacy innovation, and advise Congress.
"The United States is vastly behind other countries on this," Gillibrand said in her Medium post. "Virtually every other advanced economy has established an independent agency to address data protection challenges, and many other challenges of the digital age."
The DPA would be able to take complaints from consumers and then conduct investigations into whether a "company is doing bad things with your data," the New York senator said. She also envisions the new federal agency advising Congress on topics like deepfakes and encryption.
Gillibrand's ideas were lauded by privacy rights advocates.
Caitriona Fitzgerald, the policy director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), called the DPA a "bold, ambitious proposal."
"The U.S. confronts a privacy crisis. Our personal data is under assault. Congress must establish a data protection agency. Senator Gillibrand has put forward a bold, ambitious proposal to safeguard the privacy of Americans," Fitzgerald said in a statement.
Gillibrand's proposal comes as other lawmakers have also pushed their own visions for data privacy protection.
Late last year, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) unveiled the “Online Privacy Act of 2019,” which also called for creating a new federal agency tasked with enforcing "users’ privacy rights and ensuring companies follow the law," among other things.
The two congresswomen commended Gillibrand's proposal for a new federal agency.
"Today, no one is held accountable when a consumer’s online information is stolen, abused, or grossly mishandled. This is unacceptable, and it’s the reason we introduced the Online Privacy Act to restore and protect the American people’s right to privacy," Eshoo and Lofgren said in a statement. "We commend Senator Gillibrand for introducing the Data Protection Act, which like our legislation, creates a new federal agency that enforces privacy protections and investigates abuses. This independent agency approach is an important piece of comprehensive privacy reform and allows tough but fair oversight."
Earlier this week, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) proposed folding the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)—which does accountability work in big tech—into the Department of Justice.