Internet privacy is among the latest hot-button debates, in part, because of the rollback of Obama-era privacy protections that were supposed to take place later this year.
That got the attention of some Illinois lawmakers who are looking to implement internet safeguards at the state level, including one that would allow people to find out what companies like Google and Facebook have collected on them and which third parties they share it with.
We think that is a good idea.
Most people don't understand how a lot of this works, but just about everyone recoils at the thought of their privacy being invaded. With the internet, it is happening more and more frequently.
Surveillance of one kind or another has become the business model of the internet.
Last fall, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that if internet service providers want to collect and sell personal information, like your browsing history, they needed to get your permission first — that is, ask you to "opt-in" to their data-sharing programs.
But the GOP-led Congress voted to revoke the opt-in provision and President Trump signed the resolution last week.
Supporters of protections like Illinois is considering — a House committee has endorsed the measure — say they are needed because of what is going on in D.C.
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The federal regulations would place restrictions on what companies such as Comcast and Verizon can do with information, including user search histories, but not websites.
Privacy advocates say the move sends a clear signal that it's up to individual states to step into this "right to know" debate and try to correct it.
Not surprisingly, the tech industry is largely against the proposed requirements, saying they would burden companies with an unnecessary layer of regulation and compliance costs, while stifling innovation.
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce argues the proposal treats basic information such as names, addresses and phone numbers as "highly sensitive," unfairly extending requirements to other businesses like restaurants that offer online ordering services.
But supporters point to overwhelming support the proposal has generated. The House committee received notices from more than 1,000 people and organizations in support of the bill — mostly from private individuals. Only 32 were submitted in opposition.
It's no surprise that the American Civil Liberties Union's Illinois chapter is backing the bill, telling the Associated Press that such legislation is needed to address the now "razor-thin" division between government and private entities that can sell data to federal agencies.
In the end, maybe this ship has sailed. Maybe there is no good way to protect our basic privacy because the internet has become such a pervasive part of our everyday lives. But efforts like the one in Illinois is worth it, if for no other reason than to initiate a dialogue over our threatened right to privacy.