Democrat Unveils Internet Bill Of Rights

Advertisers and other companies would have to obtain Americans' opt-in consent before collecting or sharing their personal data, under a proposed Internet Bill of Rights unveiled this week by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California).

Khanna's proposed Bill of Rights also would grant Americans other privacy-related rights, including the right to learn what information about them is held by companies, and to be free from unfair discrimination based on their personal data.

In addition to privacy principles, Khanna's proposal also incorporates net neutrality principles. The draft provides that Americans have the right “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.”



The Federal Communications Commission passed similar net neutrality rules in 2015, but the current Republican-led agency voted last year to repeal those rules.

Khanna drafted the proposed list of rights at the request of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (California), according to The New York Times. The proposal comes as recent news about privacy breaches -- including revelations that data consultancy Cambridge Analytica harvested data from up to 87 million Facebook users -- are fueling momentum for privacy laws.

Outrage over Cambridge Analytica (and other data breaches) already helped spark passage of a new California law that incorporates some of the principles in Khanna's proposal. Among other provisions, that state's new law allows consumers to learn what personal information about them is held by businesses, and to opt out of the sale of that information.

On the federal level, Senator Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-South Dakota) has said he plans to introduce privacy legislation -- although the details remain unknown.

Many tech companies have said in the past that they should be free to collect data on an opt-out basis, unless the data is considered “sensitive.” But some companies, including broadband provider Charter, have endorsed an opt-in approach.

The Commerce Committee, which heard from executives at Charter, AT&T and other companies last month, has convened a second hearing for October 10. Witnesses will include Andrea Jelenik, who leads privacy enforcement for the EU, and Alastair MacTaggert, the California entrepreneur who helped architect that state's new law, and representatives from the Center for Democracy & Technology and Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology.

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