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25 May, 2017 14:55

Facebook & Google lobbyists fight latest user privacy bill

Facebook & Google lobbyists fight latest user privacy bill

Google and Facebook lobbyists are fighting tooth and nail against the latest proposed law to strengthen privacy online.

The BROWSER (Balancing the Rights of Web Surfers Equally and Responsibly) Act bill proposed last week would require broadband providers and websites to get users’ consent before sharing their sensitive information, including browsing history and location.

Tech giants aren’t happy and are fighting back.

 The Internet Association – an organization made up of founding members Google and Facebook, along with Amazon, eBay, Microsoft, Netflix, PayPal, Reddit, Twitter and others – issued a statement saying the bill could “upend the consumer experience online and stifle innovation.”

 The group said it would continue to track the proposed bill. “Policymakers must recognize that websites and apps continue to be under strict FTC privacy enforcement and are not in an enforcement gap, unlike other stakeholders in the ecosystem,” it said.

The BROWSER Act is similar to the ISP (Internet Service Providers) privacy rules introduced under Barack Obama and then voted down by Congress in April.

The Senate voted to roll back the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s internet privacy rules, allowing ISPs to share users’ browsing data with third parties.  

At the moment, the online advertising industry self-regulates by allowing website visitors to opt out of personalized advertising. The Federal Trade Commission can step in to punish those found to be breaking these rules.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced the new bill, but also introduced the House version to overturn the FCC’s privacy rules. She explained the reason for the apparent contradiction as wanting both internet providers and web services to have the same rules.

The FCC rule applied only to ISPs, whereas the BROWSER Act would also apply to web companies. The proposed rules would be enforced by the FCC.

"What we know is that when people talk about, 'I don't like pop ups that I get, and I don't like this and I don't like that,' that's activity that comes from the edge providers, not the ISPs," she said.

 Blackburn, the chair of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, received, as of March 2017, close to $564,000 in campaign donations from telecommunications, watchdog Open Secrets reports.