Measure Follows Trump Repeal of Federal Broadband Confidentiality Rules
Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker has introduced legislation to prohibit Internet service providers from selling or otherwise disclosing a subscriber’s online browsing history and personal information.
“In today’s world, using the Internet is essential to everyday life, which means that Internet service providers have unparalleled access to a great deal of information about their subscribers’ highly personal habits, preferences, even medical issues,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “That private data should not be up for sale to the highest bidder without subscribers’ knowledge or consent.”
The bill (A-4800) would require ISPs like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T to keep their subscribers’ personally identifiable information confidential, unless a subscriber expressly authorizes the ISP to disclose the information. The legislation comes after President Donald Trump signed legislation last month rescinding Federal Communications Commission protections intended to prohibit ISPs from selling their subscribers’ personal data.
“Technology is advancing, but the fundamental principle that consumers have a right to privacy over their information remains unchanged,” said Zwicker. “It is more important than ever to ensure that consumers can be sure that their personal information is confidential and that they are protected from the potential harm caused by unpermitted disclosure.”
With the introduction of A-4800, New Jersey joins more than a dozen other states that have introduced similar bills since the federal privacy protections rollback in early April.
“This is not a political issue. It’s a consumer protection issue,” Zwicker explained, noting that data suggests that a vast majority of Americans across party lines are very concerned about their data privacy and support Internet user privacy protections.
The measure defines “personally identifiable information” as any information that personally identifies, describes or is able to be associated with a subscriber or users of a subscriber’s account, including, but not limited to:
- name, address, precise geolocation, Social Security number or telephone number;
- requests for specific materials or services from an ISP;
- Internet protocol (IP) addresses or information concerning the access or use of online services;
- information identifying a device used primarily or exclusively by the subscriber or users of the subscriber’s account;
- financial or billing information;
- demographic data;
- medical information;
- browser cache or history;
- the contents of a subscriber’s communications or data-storage devices; or
- any information pertaining to children.
Under the legislation, subscribers who wish to disclose their information must declare so using a form separate from their contract for Internet service. An ISP would be required to provide written notice of this requirement to each subscriber upon his or her first applying for service and when the subscriber renews a contract for service. The subscriber may revoke, in writing, the authorization at any time.
The measure states that there shall be no penalty, either financially or in the quality or speed of delivery of service, for a subscriber prohibiting an ISP from disclosing his or her information.