Consumer Groups Want a New Government Agency Created to Protect Data Privacy

“Our privacy laws are decades out of date. We urgently need a new approach to privacy protection.”

alashi/Getty Images

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

A group of tech consumer groups and racial justice organizations released an aggressive new proposal on Thursday calling on the federal government to create an entirely new federal agency tasked with data privacy protection.

“Our privacy laws are decades out of date,” the letter from the group says. “We urgently need a new approach to privacy protection.” The 16 organizations behind the push—which include the Center for Digital Democracy, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Color of Change, and the Media Alliance—also called for federal legislation that would set a “baseline” for what consumers can expect for how tech companies must handle their data.

But the focus of the push is to create a new agency and remove that responsibility from the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC “is not a data protection agency. The FTC lacks rulemaking authority,” the coalition’s proposal reads. “The agency has failed to enforce the orders it has established.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told Mother Jones in an email statement that the coalition’s framework “provides valuable ideas to end the cycle of data misuse and exposure” and that “Congress must act now to establish enforceable limits to stop the secretive and unaccountable exploitation of private information.” He also added that he would try to take these principles into account as he introduced bipartisan privacy legislation later this year. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) also praised the coalition’s policy proposal, saying that the “tsunami of privacy violations by Facebook and other online companies is drowning Americans, and we need legislation that makes consent the law of the land.”

Others in Congress like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have reignited the privacy debate by rolling out a new bill of his own, which would override state data protection rules (like California’s strong privacy laws) and create one federal law, arguing that a patchwork of state laws is not an effective means of dealing with the issue and is too burdensome for new and small players in the industry.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, said last year during a Meridian Global Leadership Summit panel that he thought there was a “bipartisan consensus” for a national privacy standard that supersedes state law.

However, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told Politico last week that Congress shouldn’t “dilute” California’s rules, which he argued should instead be the “floor” for a national framework, not a ceiling. And the coalition of consumer groups said that they want states to be allowed to pursue more aggressive policies than the federal floor, arguing that they are better adept for “innovating protections to keep up with rapidly changing technology.”

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.