Blumenthal Announces "MY DATA" Bill to Restore Online Privacy

(Hartford, CT) – Following a Republican-led effort to rescind broadband privacy rules, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today announced new legislation to restore consumer control over sensitive personal information.

Signing up for Internet should never mean you have to sign away your rights to privacy,” Blumenthal said. “Unfortunately, the President and Republican lawmakers have just given broadband providers a green light to sell your private data to the highest bidder—deeply personal information including financial and medical data. My bill makes sure the FTC has the authority it needs to restore consumer control and allow individuals to use the Internet without fear of invasive and intrusive practices that turn our private lives into yet another commodity on the open market.

Currently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cannot protect consumers against unfair or deceptive practices by broadband providers because of an out-of-date loophole in the Federal Trade Commission Act. The Managing Your Data Against Telecom Abuses (MY DATA) Act would make sure the FTC has the necessary jurisdiction, and would grant the Commission authority to establish safeguards for privacy and data security across the Internet.

Last week, President Donald Trump signed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution formally rescinding the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) broadband privacy rules, which required broadband providers to get consent before sharing their subscribers’ sensitive information and adopt reasonable data security protections. Without these broadband privacy rules in place, broadband providers can use, share, and sell Americans’ sensitive information about their health, finances, and families without permission.

Broadband providers leading the effort to undo FCC’s rules claimed objection to different entities in the Internet ecosystem—broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon, and “edge” content providers like Facebook and Google—being subject to different regulatory regimes. This legislation addresses their concerns by ensuring the FTC’s jurisdiction in the Internet ecosystem includes broadband providers, and thus restoring consumer privacy and data security across all Internet platforms.

The bill has also received backing of state leaders. “What protections are there when we subscribe to an internet provider, do some online shopping, or complete a medical form or job online application?” Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz asked.  “How safe are our children when they surf the web, do their homework online, or play online video games?  Unfortunately, with no federally-mandated privacy protections, consumers will face greater security risks and have less confidence in the internet.  The internet is the essential communication tool of the twenty-first century, so it’s incumbent on the government to ensure consumers of any age can use the internet safely and securely.”

Last week, Blumenthal joined six other Senators led by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) in querying the nation’s largest broadband Internet providers on their rules to protect the privacy and security of their subscribers. The senators sent letters to AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and CenturyLink.