Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Politicians Seek Greater Online Consumer Privacy Protections

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

The Congressional mid-term elections are coming up. There is ample current discussion about whether the Republicans can hold onto majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Many Democrats believe that they have a strong chance of taking over as the majority party in the House, and some think that they may even take the Senate majority, but that latter potential achievement will be far more difficult, as many more Democrat Senators are up for reelection than Republican Senators.

If the Democrats take over as the majority party in the House, CNET reports that they plan to urge broad internet privacy protections. Representative Ro Khannna from Silicon Valley has drafted an "Internet Bill of Rights." At this point, this document is not a bill, but instead puts forward ten principles that Khanna reportedly wants to become part of a comprehensive legislative package that could be considered by Congress in 2019.

The internet now is enmeshed in practically all aspects of our lives, and some people argue that in certain areas sufficient consumer privacy protections are not in place. There has been some building momentum for further regulation, and Khanna's Internet Bill of Rights now appears to be at the tip of the spear of that momentum.

Khanna's Internet Bill of Rights sets forth that individuals should have various rights, specifically including the right:

  • To have access to and knowledge of all collection and uses of personal data by companies;
  • To opt-in consent to the collection of personal data by any party and to the sharing of personal data with a third-party;
  • Where context appropriate and with a fair process, to obtain, correct or delete personal data controlled by any company and to have those requests honored by third-parties;
  • To have personal data secured and to be notified in a timely manner when a security breach or unauthorized access of personal data is discovered;
  • To move all personal data from one network to the next;
  • To access and use the internet without internet service providers blocking, throttling, engaging in paid prioritization or otherwise unfairly favoring content, applications, services or devices;
  • To internet service without the collection of data that is unnecessary for providing the requested service absent opt-in consent;
  • To have access to multiple viable, affordable, internet platforms, services and providers with clear and transparent pricing;
  • Not be unfairly discriminated against or exploited based on personal data; and
  • To have an entity that collects personal data have reasonable business practices and accountability to protect privacy.

This is quite an expansive wish-list. Nevertheless, if Democrats take the House, with Khanna at the helm, they very well may push for all items on Khanna's Internet Bill of Rights. And even if Democrats do not take back the House, they still may argue for some of the items within the Internet Bill of Rights. And in less partisan times, one could imagine the potential for at least some Republican support. But, these are partisan times, so, as often is said these days, "we shall see."

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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