This past week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, already passed by the Senate, that would roll back Obama-era privacy regulations on internet service providers (ISPs). As a consequence of this rollback, these ISPs will be able to sell your browsing data and history to advertisers, or whomever else might purchase said data from them.
Eliminating these regulations will serve no constituency except for the ISPs, who have been lobbying for exactly this rollback. As it happens, the 265 Republican representatives who voted in favor of this bill received a combined $9,074,132 in the 2016 election cycle from the telecommunications industry.
This bill now awaits President Trump’s signature, and he has signaled an inclination to sign it into law and gravely endanger all Americans’ rights to privacy.
We need to protect our browsing data and our privacy, rather than selling it out for the sake of profits of industrial giants. Fortunately, rather than just wringing our hands and gnashing our teeth at the awful, corrupt Republicans in congress, we can do something about it.
While federal law supersedes state law, the lack of a federal regulation does not prevent states from taking action to protect their citizens.
Maryland can and must write into law protections that would block this sort of corporate exploitation of our people for profit.
Work along these lines is underway in a number of states, as the New York Times reported on March 26. Illinois has taken the lead so far, with active legislation that would require companies like Google and Facebook to disclose to users what data is collected about them and what sorts of companies it’s shared with. Two other bills under consideration there would regulate when smartphone apps can track consumers’ locations, and would limit how and when microphones in smartphones and other connected devices can be activated.
Maryland’s state elected officials received over $292,000 in contributions from the Telecommunications industry in the 2014 electoral cycle. Even so, I would hope that the General Assembly will not wait until the 2019 session to protect Marylanders in this fashion, but if they haven’t then if I am elected, I will make it a priority to protect your data and your privacy.