President Trump has yet to sign off on congressional legislation that allows American ISPs to sell their subscribers' online habits to advertisers – but US states aren't waiting for his signature and are moving to protect their constituents' privacy.
On Tuesday, the Minnesota House of Representatives introduced legislation to ensure that those living in the state would have to give written permission to their internet providers before it could sell details of their private internet activities. The legislation easily passed through the House.
The following day, Minnesota Senator Ron Latz (DFL‑St Louis Park) introduced an amendment to a budget bill that would require ISPs to get written consent from customers before selling off their browser histories to marketers.
Republicans tried to block the move by insisting it go through a committee stage, but Senator Warren Limmer (R‑Maple Grove) crossed the aisle and voted to ensure the amendment was considered. It was then added to the bill by a 66‑1 vote, with one Republican senator voting against, arguing that more study of the issue was needed.
Once the state's Senate and House have worked out the final wording of the privacy safeguards, the bill will be passed to the governor to sign – and then it's live.
"We should be outraged at the invasion that's being allowed on our most intimate means of communication," Limmer told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. "This ... urgently needs to be addressed."
Illinois, too, has decided to fight back with its own ideas. On Thursday, the state's Cybersecurity, Data Analytics & IT Committee approved two new privacy measures. One would allow state residents to demand what data companies such as Comcast, Verizon, Google and Facebook is sharing about them. The other would require consent before an app can track users' locations. The bills are in an early stage of development, and are still being debated.
Several other states are said to be considering legislation in response to Congress' new rules eliminating privacy protections for internet users in America. Public opinion isn't in favor of letting ISPs have a free hand. If you're hoping Donald will scupper efforts to open up people's private data to advertisers, forget it: the White House said in a statement that Trump's advisors "would recommend that he sign the bill into law." ®
PS: How about the time Google – the online advertising giant that once had dreams of becoming an ISP – wrote to the FCC strongly in favor of scrapping opt-in privacy protections for online browser histories?