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article imageBill would ban ISPs in New York State from selling personal data

By Jack Derricourt     Apr 5, 2017 in Internet
With President Trump’s final signature, last week’s repeal of the Obama administration’s internet privacy provisions became official.
Many U.S. citizens are unhappy with the knowledge that their internet browsing data can now be sold by their Internet Service Provider (ISP), and lawmakers in New York State are acting on this outcry. Senator Tim Kennedy introduced legislation that would prevent ISPs from selling ‘personal information’ of their customers to a third party without obtaining prior consent.
In a press release, Senator Kennedy articulated the feelings of constituents supporting Internet privacy regulation, and against the highly unpopular repealing of the Obama administration’s rules:
“When voters across the country elected this House and US Senate last November, I doubt they were voting with the hope that their ISP would be allowed to sell their browsing history,” said Senator Kennedy. “This kind of anti-consumer, anti-privacy action doesn’t benefit anyone except large corporations. This is not an abstract threat to regular folks – this is bad policy with real world consequences. The legislation I have introduced will ensure these actions never make it to New York State.”
Disturbingly, by indicating what ‘personal information’ entails in the context of the bill, we get a pretty clear picture of the sorts of information that third parties could obtains from ISPs: credit ratings, family size, race, religion, weight, education and political affiliation are all included in the definition used in the bill. It gets easy to see why civil liberties associations are concerned that in the future employers might obtain information from ISPs in order to assess new or departing employees. And depending on what happens to the current form of Obamacare, health and daily schedule information mined from a customer’s browsing history could be used by private insurance groups to determine pre-existing conditions.
The bill is currently in committee. Given the outcry against many other Trump administration policies by New York State, and the fact that privacy regulation carries a lot of bipartisan support in various states, the legislation has a likelihood of passing.
Minnesota is working on similar legislation. Both the Minnesota House and Senate added amendments to their proposed budgets to prevent any ISP with a franchise in the state from collecting a wide range of data from customers without their explicit consent beforehand. The two proposed pieces of legislation need to be coordinated, but it appears likely that the state will enact some form of regulation on Internet customer browsing data.
The largest ISPs signed on to a non-binding privacy agreement earlier this year in order to demonstrate their commitment to protecting consumer data “with the strongest pro-consumer policies in the internet ecosystem”. The ISPs saw the Obama era privacy rules as an overreach by the FCC that would “confuse consumers, (and) in turn undermining their ability to exercise choice.”
More about New york, Internet, Internet privacy, Internet data, ISPs
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