Is it time for a federal data protection agency?
January 17, 2019
State and federal lawmakers have pushed for privacy laws after myriad online breaches and scandals. Now, saying the United States faces a “crisis,” advocacy groups are going a step further and calling for a new data protection agency.
“The U.S. needs a federal agency focused on privacy protection, compliance with data protection obligations, and emerging privacy challenges,” an alliance of more than a dozen groups — including Bay Area-based Color of Change, Center for Media Justice and Berkeley Media Studies group — said Thursday. They said the agency, unlike the Federal Trade Commission, should have rule-making authority.
The groups are proposing a framework that includes federal privacy rules to limit the collection of personal data, robust enforcement of those rules, limiting government access to personal data, calling for algorithmic transparency and more.
“Digital giants invade our private lives, spy on our families, and gather our most intimate facts for profit,” the groups said in the proposal.
“Each innovation – whether it’s talking home assistants, new social media tools or software for schools – is designed to spy on families and children,” said Josh Golin, executive director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, one of the groups in the alliance, in a statement.
Sixteen groups launched the effort. They also include the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Federation of America, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and Public Citizen.
The FTC is tasked with helping protect consumers and promoting competition. But it does not make rules — it goes after companies facing complaints. In their framework, the groups accused the FTC of failing “to enforce the orders it has established.” For example, questions swirl around whether Facebook, fresh off the Cambridge Analytica and other privacy scandals, has violated the terms of a privacy settlement it reached with the FTC in 2011.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, is one lawmaker who has called for stricter oversight of companies such as Facebook.
“This framework provides valuable ideas to end the cycle of data misuse and exposure,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “Congress must act now to establish enforceable limits to stop the secretive and unaccountable exploitation of private information. I look forward taking these principles into account as I work to introduce bipartisan privacy legislation this year.”
By Levi Sumagaysay
Originally published on The Mercury News
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