Today, the Food and Drug Administration vets new prescription drugs before they go on sale. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigates automobile safety hazards and sets fuel economy standards. And the Securities and Exchange Commission protects investors from fraud in stock sales.

By contrast, Americans have almost no safeguards for apps, in part because Congress has never established an agency to police Facebook, Instagram, Uber, YouTube and other online services that use sophisticated data-mining tools to surveil, sort and steer people on a massive scale.

In fact, the United States is virtually the only developed nation without a comprehensive consumer data protectionClose X law and an independent agency to enforce it. Instead, Americans have to rely on the Federal Trade CommissionClose X, an overstretched agency with limited powers, to police privacy as a side hustle. The regulatory void has left Americans at the mercy of digital services that have every reason to exploit our personal information and little incentive to safeguard it.

But that could be changing.