PINDROP BLOG

California Lawmaker Seeks to Restore Broadband Privacy Rule

Three months after Congress voted to repeal some privacy protections that prevented ISPs from sharing customers’ browsing history and other sensitive data without consent, a California legislator has introduced a bill in the state assembly that would restore those protections.

The federal legislation passed in March essentially rolled back a rule that the FCC had adopted last year that required broadband providers to obtain users’ consent before sharing or selling certain types of sensitive information. That data includes browsing history, Social Security numbers, financial data, and other information, and the FCC’s rule required broadband providers to have their customers opt in before selling it.

“The answer is not to turn over the keys to the Internet to the broadband providers and say you can sell it as you see fit without even having users opt in,” Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said at the time of the bill’s passage. “This bill would hurt the entire Internet ecosystem by breaking down the trust between providers and users.”

The legislation was the target of a lot of criticism from privacy advocates, digital rights groups, and others, who said it would open consumers up to more intrusive marketing and other problems without their knowledge. Now, a legislator in California is trying to change that for that state’s residents. Assembly Member Ed Chau on Monday introduced a bill that would again require ISPs to get user consent before sharing the sensitive data they collect about their customers.

Chau’s bill is similar to one that Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced in April in the Senate. Markey’s bill would require broadband providers to get customer consent to share or sell their data.

“Thanks to Congressional Republicans, corporations, not consumers, are in control of sensitive information about Americans’ health, finances, and children. The Republican roll-back of strong broadband privacy rules means ISP no longer stands for Internet Service Provider, it stands for ‘Information Sold for Profit’,” said Markey.  “This legislation will put the rules back on the books to protect consumers from abusive invasions of their privacy. Americans should not have to forgo their fundamental right to privacy just because their homes and phones are connected to the internet.”

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