California Planned on Strengthening Internet Privacy. It Didn’t.

September 18, 2017, 2:53 PM UTC
Photograph by Getty Images

Seven months ago, California legislators first began debating a bill that would have prevented Internet providers from collecting and selling user data without permission. But when the state assembly wrapped up its 2017 session, that proposal never got a vote.

The bill, called A.B. 375, was originally introduced on Feb 9 (though it was greatly revised in the months that followed). Had it been passed, it would have required service providers—which include telecom companies such as Verizon and AT&T—to obtain a customer’s permission before that data was used, shared or sold. It would also have prevented providers from charging customers who refused to grant that permission a higher fee.

The lack of a vote comes on the heels of the federal repeal of Obama-era privacy rules by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier this year. Legislators, though, did leave the door open for voting on it again in 2018.

Still, privacy advocates are blasting California lawmakers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the oldest nonprofits advocating for digital rights, said “the legislature demonstrated that they put the profits of Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast over the privacy rights of their constituents.”

Proponents of the bill were hoping a passage by the legislature would have been a call to action for other states, as more than 20 others have considered passing their own Internet privacy bills.

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