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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is introducing a bill that would create the Data Protection Agency, a new federal agency with the authority to ensure businesses are transparent about data collection and the power to enforce violations.

Why it matters: The U.S. has fallen behind Europe and some states in regulating data and privacy issues, with responsibility split among several agencies, including the FCC, FTC and DOJ.

Details: In a statement, Gillibrand said that the agency would have a director appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate and would have the ability to "investigate, subpoena for testimony or documents, and issue civil investigative demands" it would also be able to set rules, issue orders and represent the U.S. in global efforts. At the same time, Gillibrand said "the authority of state agencies and state attorneys general are preserved."

Between the lines: The move comes amid a global dialogue on privacy and just as Britain hands its communications regulator more authority over Internet content.

Reality check: Gillibrand isn't alone in her desire. A pair of California Democrats introduced legislation last year that would also establish a new digital regulator.  However, neither the bipartisan staff draft on privacy in the House nor the dueling Democratic and Republican takes on privacy by the leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee include the creation of a new agency.

What they're saying:

  • Gillibrand: "As the data privacy crisis looms larger over the everyday lives of Americans, the government has a responsibility to step forward and give Americans meaningful protection over their data and how it’s being used."
  • Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen: "Along with new privacy laws that protect individual access to courts and don’t scuttle the importance of the states, having a DPA is necessary to protect consumers in the digital age.” 
  • Katharina Kopp, deputy director, Center for Digital Democracy: "The FTC has totally failed to protect the public for many years — regardless of which party has been in power. We applaud Senator Gillibrand’s proposal, which if enacted, could help ensure that our digital rights are protected in the U.S.”

Separately: A new bill from Sen. Jeff Merkley and Sen. Cory Booker would set limits on federal government use of facial recognition, absent a warrant. The ACLU called it "a good first step" but said the bill has too many exceptions and "fails to fully account for the realities of this mass surveillance tool."

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to report that the senator proposing facial recognition legislation is Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), not, as we incorrectly first reported, Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Technology

Twitter sues Texas AG Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at February's Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Twitter on Monday filed a lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), saying that his office launched an investigation into the social media giant because it banned former President Trump from its platform.

Driving the news: Twitter is seeking to halt an investigation launched by Paxton into moderation practices by Big Tech firms including Twitter for what he called "the seemingly coordinated de-platforming of the President," days after they banned him following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate retirements could attract GOP troublemakers

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Roy Blunt's retirement highlights the twin challenge facing Senate Republicans: finding good replacement candidates and avoiding a pathway for potential troublemakers to join their ranks.

Why it matters: While the midterm elections are supposed to be a boon to the party out of power, the recent run of retirements — which may not be over — is upending that assumption for the GOP in 2022.

Congressional diversity growing - slowly

Data: Brookings Institution and Pew Research Center; Note: No data on Native Americans in Congress before the 107th Congress; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The number of non-white senators and House members in the 535-seat Congress has been growing steadily in the past several decades — but representation largely lags behind the overall U.S. population.

Why it matters: Non-whites find it harder to break into the power system because of structural barriers such as the need to quit a job to campaign full time for office, as Axios reported in its latest Hard Truths Deep Dive.

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