House Republican unveils internet privacy bill

Greg Nash

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced legislation on Friday that would force broadband providers and internet companies trying to collect and sell consumer’s digital data to first get their expressed consent.

The bill from the chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on technology and communications is similar in some ways to the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules that Republicans and President Trump blocked earlier this year.

But those rules only applied to internet service providers like AT&T and Verizon, not web companies like Google and Facebook. The FCC only had oversight on broadband companies, under its net neutrality rules.

Blackburn’s bill would require both types of companies to get users to opt-in and agree to share data such as their app usage and web browsing history.

The bill would also make the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), not the FCC, the enforcer.

That could be difficult for privacy groups to swallow. Privacy advocates argue that the FTC doesn’t have the same regulatory teeth as the FCC and would be less effective at enforcing privacy rules.

“One agency, one set of rules,” Blackburn told reporters on Friday morning. “It makes more sense that way.”

Blackburn said the bill has been getting bipartisan support, but it’s unclear if it has enough support to get through Congress.

The Tennessee lawmaker said being able to opt-in or out of sharing information with companies was important for consumers.

“I have also held the belief what you need to do was allow people the opportunity to opt-in if there were things that they’d like to share,” Blackburn said. “Maybe you want people pinging you back with certain pop-ups.”

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