California Takes Fight to Internet Privacy Laws.
Nearly three months after Congress struck down federal regulations that aimed to protect internet users from having their online activities secretly tracked and sold, California lawmakers are unveiling new legislation that would require companies to follow such rules in their state.
The proposed rules would prevent broadband providers such as Comcast and AT&T from collecting or selling certain personal information unless customers “opt in” to policies, among other requirements. This move will surely be fought by the internet giants
“It’s based on a simple demand of the people: Ask me first before you use or share my personal information,” said Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California, at a news conference Monday. The legislation, unveiled Monday morning by Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park, was prompted by an outcry from consumer-privacy groups and others over the decision to repeal Obama-era regulations from the Federal Communications Commission. A large coalition of civil rights and consumer organizations are backing the bill.
A spokeswoman for Comcast declined to comment on the legislation, but directed those concerned to a blog post on consumer privacy by the company’s chief privacy officer, which was written in late March, as the federal rules were being repealed. “We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual web browsing history,” says Comcast. “We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so.”
Chau’s Assembly Bill 375 was written to mirror repealed federal regulations restricting the use of a broadband customer’s personal information, such as online browsing history. As with the repealed federal rules, the state bill’s provisions would “not” apply to companies like Google and Facebook, which broadband providers have argued is unfair. Consumer-privacy groups counter that broadband internet is like a utility. Consumers often do not have a choice about which internet provider company they use. Service providers have much broader access to a customer’s online activities through search engines like Google. They also argue that consumers pay for high-speed internet, which makes the relationship different than with a free app or website.
Supporters acknowledged that passing such legislation would be a battle: 19 other states have considered similar proposals, and none of those bills have yet to pass, though many are pending. Protect your privacy with Gibiru until they do.
The bill was announced as another debate rages nationally among many of the same players over Obama-era policies governing “net neutrality”. This idea that internet providers must give users access to all websites and apps, without blocking some or favoring others. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, on Monday urged FCC Chairman Ajit Pai not to unravel those regulations, as he has proposed. Pai has argued the current approach is “heavy handed.”
In her letter to the chairman, Pelosi also invited him to hold a public hearing in San Francisco.