Sen. Gillibrand introduces legislation to form new government agency to protect Americans’ online data

Legislation introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on Sunday would give Americans more control over their online data — and keep millions of people from having their personal information abused by private companies.

Gillibrand officially proposed the Data Protection Act, which would establish a federal Data Protection Agency to oversee the information millions of Americans share online.

The new agency would rein in the likes of Facebook, which in recent years has exposed the personal information of nearly 50 million of its users and has been used as a propaganda tool for foreign governments looking to interfere in U.S. elections.

“The U.S. needs a new approach to privacy and data protection. We cannot allow our freedoms to be trampled over by private companies that value profits over people,” Gillibrand said in announcing the bill. “Data privacy is becoming an urgent concern for the everyday lives of Americans and the government has a responsibility to step forward and give them meaningful protection over their data and how it’s being used.”

Gillibrand made data privacy a key part of her failed 2020 presidential bid. Her proposed law aims to turn that platform into policy.

The head of the Data Protection Agency would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The agency would be tasked with creating guidelines around how personal information stored in online databases — like health records, email addresses and photos — is collected and used by private entities.

The senator pointed out that other nations already have data protection policies in place — and the U.S. continues to fall behind the curve.

The European Union in 2016 established the General Data Protection Regulation, which establishes strict guidelines for the use and collection of personal online data by private companies. Some U.S.-based websites still do not abide by those regulations and are not able to be viewed in Europe because of the new rules.

“Data has been called ‘the new oil,’” said Gillibrand. “Companies are rushing to explore and refine it, ignoring regulations, putting profits above responsibility, and treating consumers as little more than dollar signs.”

*Story by New York Daily News