Lawmakers in Washington state, California and potentially Oregon are moving quickly to reimpose internet privacy rules repealed by Congress. President Donald Trump on Monday signed off on rolling back regulations that would have forbidden broadband service providers such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from selling your personal browsing data without your permission.
Washington state Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, said his phone and email lit up after Congress voted to repeal broadband internet privacy rules.
"I began receiving phone calls -- hundreds of phone calls -- and emails, messages. You know, we all have these news feeds on our phone,” Ranker said. “Mine was just this constant, 'Oh my God, what are you going to do to protect us?'"
Ranker is now sponsoring legislation to require your consent before your internet service provider collects your browsing data.
Telecom and cable company lobbyists met with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday. Inslee said the industry wants the state to let the feds handle this privacy issue to avoid forcing companies to comply with 50 different state rules.
During a regular weekly media briefing Thursday, Inslee said he tends to agree "it is better to have a universal, nationwide privacy protection structure" compared to a patchwork of state-by-state rulemaking.
But Inslee said he's skeptical the federal government will step up anytime soon.
"I have expressed significant doubt about the ability to do that since they just pulled the rug out from under this suite of privacy protections that was going into place," Inslee said.
California, Montana and Minnesota are among nearly a dozen other states where state lawmakers quickly filed proposals to fill the perceived gap created by the repeal of the Federal Communications Commission broadband privacy regulation. The protections promulgated by the FCC last year were scheduled to go into effect later this year.
Congress and President Trump scrapped the rules under a rarely used law allowing Congress to veto new regulations.
A spokesman for the Democratic majority in the Oregon House said Thursday some members were working on a similar measure of their own, but that version was likely "still in the early stages."
Major ISP companies published statements in recent days saying they do not sell their customers' individual browsing history.
"We did not do it before the FCC's rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so," wrote Comcast Senior Vice President Gerard Lewis in a blog post. "If a customer does not want us to use other, non-sensitive data to send them targeted ads, we offer them the ability to opt out of receiving such targeted ads."
Congress acted to scrap the FCC rules based on complaints from the ISPs about "regulatory overreach," stifling of innovation and a fairness argument. The telecom companies fear they could be disadvantaged because competitors such as Facebook and Google, which already use your personal surfing habits to sell targeted advertising, are unregulated.
The proposed replacement privacy legislation introduced at the Washington Legislature applies only to broadband internet providers. It would not touch web portals such as Google and Facebook either.
Fully three-quarters of the Washington state House and a similar bipartisan percentage of the Washington Senate agreed to cosponsor their chamber's respective versions of the bill.
The Washington State House Technology and Economic Development Committee has set a public hearing for next Wednesday on HB 2200. This initial airing of the privacy measure comes late in the 105-day regular session of the 2017 Legislature, long after the normal deadlines for bill introductions. It is testament to the popularity or power of the issue that the legislative leadership bent the procedural rules to hear it.