These States Are Pushing Back Against The Internet Privacy Rollback

By Mark Sullivan

When it comes to immigration rights to civil liberties, several states are vowing to chart their own course—through legislation or in the courts—against what they consider the harsh agenda of the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress. The latest battleground is over Obama-era broadband privacy restrictions on internet service providers, which Congress voted to overturn this week. States across the country are stepping in to make sure that such protections are not completely discarded.

Minnesota’s state house voted Friday to require ISPs to provide an opt-out opportunity to subscribers before collecting and selling their information. Democratic Senator Ron Latz managed to add the amendment to an economic development budget bill and, despite a GOP attempt to remove it, the body OK’d the amendment 66-1. The overall budget bill passed 58-9.

The surprise move comes just after the House of Representatives in Washington D.C., followed the Senate in repealing FCC rules that also require ISPs to give subscribers a chance to opt out of having their personal data collected and sold. The rules were slated to take effect later this year. The president is almost certain to sign the resolution, which would formally remove the privacy rules and prevent the FCC from enacting similar ones in the future.

Democrats in the Illinois state house are considering their own set of privacy protections for internet users, reports the AP. An Illinois House of Representatives committee has now considered two new online privacy measures, with more discussion on the legislation set for next week.

One bill guarantees consumers the right to know what information internet companies like Facebook and Google have collected on them, and to what third parties the information has been sold. California added similar language to the law back in 2005.

The other bill guarantees that internet companies can’t track the physical location of mobile users without asking for permission. California proposed an amendment to more narrowly define the definition of geotracking, but the measure died in the Senate during 2016.

“People are looking to us now to provide protections for consumers,” state representative Arthur Turner (D-Chicago) told the Associated Press. Turner proposed the “right-to-know” bill.

Business groups oppose the bill, saying it classifies too much user data as “sensitive,” putting an undue burden on businesses that must collect some user information.

The big internet companies are present in the debate, too. Illinois senator Michael Hastings, who proposed a Senate companion to the Assembly’s right-to-know bill, told the AP that lobbyists representing Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft have already visited his office to discuss the legislation.  

Hastings doesn’t sound like he was swayed by the lobbyists’ arguments about the value of collecting consumer data. “It may be good for the Apples, the Amazons of the world, but it’s not good for people,” Hastings said.

If and when Trump signs the resolution rolling back the FCC broadband protections, we may see more state houses jump into action with their own bills.

Fast Company