Congress won’t act? NJ looks to regulate internet privacy
State lawmakers are considering jumping in where Congress won’t by adopting restrictions on how internet service providers can sell or share their subscribers’ data, including their browsing history.
The Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee on Thursday advanced a bill, A1527, requiring ISPs to keep their subscribers’ personally identifiable information confidential, unless the user specifically opts in to allow that.
“Some people like getting the little box that has shoes that they’ve recently looked at. Great. And that’s your choice,” said Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-Somerset. “But that’s the key thing. It needs to be our choice, not the company’s.”
A year ago, the federal government rescinded federal rules limiting the sale of subscribers’ browsing history and personal data by internet service providers.
“The federal government has given up its authority to regulate what is really a right for everyone, which is to control your own data,” Zwicker said.
Republicans on the Assembly technology committee voted no, in part over concerns the bill would violate the Constitution’s interstate commerce clause. Zwicker said he’s working with the state attorney general to ensure it doesn’t and that technical amendments will be made.
Jim Halpert, a lobbyist representing the ISP’s trade association, the State Privacy and Security Coalition, said at a February hearing that internet service would basically have to be reinvented for New Jersey if the bill becomes law.
“Individual state action is very problematic if you’re running a business in this area that covers multiple states,” Halpert said.
Then get Congress to act, Zwicker said.
“They don’t believe we should have a patchwork among all the different states,” Zwicker said. “I actually agree with that, and if the federal government were to do something that had a uniform policy, that would be fine. But that’s not what we have now, so New Jersey has to act.”
Zwicker said it’s necessary in an age where being online isn’t really a choice.
“This happens in Europe all the time. They have much more strict privacy laws. They really look at, strongly believe that, we the people own our data. And so we’re going to do the same thing in New Jersey.”