It seems there might just be a glimmer of hope for online privacy advocates in the USA, as a potential solution to the butchering of online privacy protections might have emerged, in some states at least.
Readers will recall that last week the Republican-controlled US Congress voted to approve an early Senate decision to kill off internet privacy in the country and allow ISPs to sell users personal data without the need to obtain consent first.
The decision has been widely condemned by many and has also seen a spike in VPN interest in the US as a direct result of the vote.
It was thought that the only person capable of stopping the vote becoming law was Republican President Donald Trump. Whilst Democratic legislators have been reaching out to him to step in and veto the law, their calls always had an air of desperation to them.
Indeed, in the last few hours, it has been confirmed that Trump has signed the Bill into law.
But whilst the Federal Government in the US may have put corporate profits ahead of the interests of their citizens, there are other legislators who may be able to step in and offer people some protection.
Because the US is a confederation of states and State legislators are also able to pass laws on this issue.
Minnesota amends to protect online privacy
In Minnesota, Senator Ron Latz (DFL‑St Louis Park) has introduced an amendment to the state’s economic development budget bill which would require ISPs to gain written consent from ISPs before they could sell the data of any customers in the State.
Republican’s on the Minnesota Senate tried to block the move by forcing it into a Committee hearing. But one of their number, Senator Warren Limmer (R‑Maple Grove), sided with the Democrats to enable the amendment to be voted on and it was passed by a huge margin of 66 votes to 1.
Speaking afterwards to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, Limmer was damning in his assessment of the new Federal Law. “We should be outraged at the invasion that’s being allowed on our most intimate means of communication,” he said. “This … urgently needs to be addressed.”
Once the final wording of the privacy amendments have been confirmed, the Bill only needs to be signed off by the State Governor, Mark Dayton (a Democrat) to become law.
Illinois pondering privacy legislation
Whilst Minnesota has moved fast, Illinois to has plans in the pipeline to protect privacy. Last Thursday, the State’s Cybersecurity, Data Analytics & IT Committee approved two new privacy policies which are now in Development.
One would empower citizens in the state to be able to request details from ISPs as to what data about them is being sold on to third parties. The other would mean that user consent would have to be given before an app can track their locations.
Whilst these proposals would still need debating, hopes are high that they will make it onto the State statute book sooner rather than later.
As State Representative Arthur Turner (Democrat) said in the State House last Thursday, “People are looking to us now to provide protections for consumers.”
And it is not just Minnesota and Illinois who are considering taking such actions. There are reports of several more states which are considering taking similar states.
The public backlash against the new law has been pretty strong on both sides of the political divide, with many Republicans as outraged as their Democratic rivals.
With Democrats controlling twelve state legislatures and six more being split, the likelyhood of further states following suit is high with the result likely to be internet privacy in the US being fragmented depending on which State you live in, and which party controls your legislature.
So, there is hope for online privacy in at least some US States in the months ahead, but right now, with Trump signing off the new Federal Law, ISPs can start selling, so US citizens should be searching out a VPN to protect their own privacy today.