Open Technology Institute Publishes Model State Legislation for Broadband Privacy

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Today, New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI), with the support of 12 consumer advocacy and privacy organizations listed below, published model legislation to aid state legislatures in improving privacy protections for broadband customers.

Almost exactly one year ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed robust, clear, and common-sense broadband privacy rules focusing on consumer choice, data security, and transparency. Consumers overwhelmingly favored these rules. Despite the public’s positive reaction, and over the objection of 15 Republicans in the House of Representatives, Congress voted to repeal the rules and preclude the FCC from enacting similar rules in the future.

In the absence of federal leadership, states have the opportunity to step up and protect their citizens’ broadband privacy rights. Today’s model legislation is designed to guide the reimplementation strong broadband privacy protections and provide Americans real choices over how broadband providers like AT&T and Verizon can use, disclose, and provide access to customer information. OTI encourages states to give consumers the privacy choices they want by using this model as a basis for their own broadband privacy legislation.

This model is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Digital Democracy, Center for Media Justice, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, Consumers Union, Public Knowledge, Media Alliance, The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and X-Lab. Quotes from several of these organizations are included below.

The following can be attributed to Eric Null, Policy Counsel at New America’s Open Technology Institute:

“Our model legislation is about ensuring broadband customers have robust privacy protections and controls. The FCC’s 2016 broadband privacy rules, which OTI supported, provided those protections. Unfortunately, with the Congressional repeal of those rules, consumers lost protections they expected and desired. But states can help mitigate Congress’s error. Today’s model legislation will hopefully push those conversations forward and lead to the reimplementation of these vital privacy protections.”

The following can be attributed to Chris Laughlin, Staff Attorney at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Public Representation, which represents Open Technology Institute on consumer privacy:

“Americans value the ability to make informed choices about how their private information is used. This model legislation provides clear rules of the road for broadband providers and it ensures that consumers receive notice of and understand privacy practices before consenting to them.”

The following can be attributed to Natasha Duarte, Policy Analyst at Center for Democracy and Technology:

“The role of states in protecting privacy is more important than ever. This model bill provides vetted language that lawmakers can use to give their constituents control over how broadband providers use their personal information.”

The following can be attributed to Katharina Kopp, Director of Policy at Center for Digital Democracy:

"States must protect the fundamental right to privacy in our digital communications. With this model bill, states now have a thorough blueprint to implement strong privacy protections for broadband Internet customers, including children. Sadly, the powerful special broadband interests—including Comcast, Verizon and AT&T—have so much control over federal lawmakers that consumers cannot rely on Washington to protect their privacy."

The following can be attributed to Linda Sherry, Director of Priorities at Consumer Action:

“Consumers should have effective control over how their personal information is used and shared by their broadband service providers. Consumers who sign up for broadband shouldn’t be forced to sign away their rights to privacy. The model bill provides a roadmap for transparency, choice and security."

The following can be attributed to Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at Consumer Federation of America:

"Since Congress made the ill-advised and unpopular decision to nix the national broadband privacy rule, it's up to the states to put Americans in control of how their internet service providers can use or share information about what they do online. This model bill will help states craft legislation that provides sensible, effective privacy protections for their residents."

The following can be attributed to John Simpson, Privacy Project Director at Consumer Watchdog:

"Consumers should have the right to control how the information about them is used by their Internet Service Provider. FCC regulations protected that right until President Trump and a Republican Congress revoked it. Now states must act to protect our privacy, and this model legislation shows how to do it."

The following can be attributed to Justin Brookman, Director of Consumer Privacy and Technology Policy at Consumers Union:

"Due to the repeal of the FCC's broadband privacy rules, consumers' private browsing data is unprotected at the federal level. We urge states to take action to protect their residents' broadband privacy. This model bill is a strong example for states to use as they introduce and pass their own legislation to protect consumers."

The following can be attributed to Yosef Getachew, Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge:

"Ever since Congress repealed the FCC's broadband privacy rules, consumers have expressed outrage over their lack of privacy protections when accessing broadband networks. Without any rules at the federal level, states must fill the void by passing legislation that ensures consumer broadband privacy remains protected. OTI's model bill serves as a template that provides strong privacy protections and ultimately gives consumers control over their own data."

The following can be attributed to Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director at Media Alliance:

"Americans of all political stripes and persuasions have uniformly expressed that they want to consent to the sale of their search and browser data by their Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Sometimes sensitive information about our health, finances, relationships and political leanings is online because the Internet can help us find needed help and resources. Using this valuable tool should not be a ticket to losing the ability to protect our personal privacy when we need to do so."