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Thursday, April 13, 2017 12:08 am

Preserving internet privacy in Illinois

A bill to preserve internet privacy has been introduced in the General Assembly.

Known as the Right to Know Act, the legislation would require that internet service providers who retrieve personal data of individual customers through the internet must inform those customers that the service providers are collecting their information. Violators would be subject to fines.

The proposal is a response to a bill President Donald Trump signed into law April 3 which rescinded internet privacy rules set by the Obama administration. The current law now gives internet service providers more control over an individual’s personal data.

In a news conference at the Capitol April 4, Rep. Art Turner, D-Chicago, said Illinois must safeguard internet privacy rights. “This is a very timely bill considering what’s going on nationwide,” he said. “As we pursue this legislation, we want to be a leader in states taking charge of this issue and granting privacy rights to the consumers.”

Turner said the bill will not prevent businesses from doing anything they are currently undertaking in getting information. Nevertheless, he reiterated that consumers have the right to know if their data is being used. “This is a very simple bill because it allows consumers to request from the companies that they come into contact with what information is being collected and how that information is being disseminated,” he said.

Tom Dart, Cook County sheriff, proposed the bill to legislators. “There has to be a sense of perspective in this world, and right now, this bill clearly shows that there isn’t any,” Dart said. “People who have never had any interactions with law enforcement, who have not violated any laws, who pay their taxes, routinely get their information swept, taken, sold or given away, and they don’t even know about it.”

Dart said that the purpose of the bill is not to cut into companies’ profits, but to open the public’s eyes. “We need to create a level of transparency so people can understand what personal information is being taken, who it’s being given to, and then they can make the determination if they want to still work for that company,” he said.

Turner acknowledged opposition towards the bill, but said he’s willing to compromise. “We’re going to continue to discuss and work out the issues with this bill to those on the other side because that’s what we do here in Springfield to pass legislation,” he said. “This sort of bill deserves that sort of cooperation.”

However, Dart said some of the arguments from the bill’s detractors were irrational. “The notion that this could be too laborious for people who are doing nothing more than trying to live their lives? That is insane,” he said.

Dart hopes that the bill will give service providers accountability when obtaining personal information. “There is insanity in a system that we have that allows this to go on,” he said. “This bill is simply trying to bring some sanity into the situation and say, ‘Listen, there must be a baseline established so that individuals realize what personal information of theirs is being swept up by the companies they are engaged with. The individual has the right to find out from those companies what information of theirs is being given and sold.”

Alex Camp is an editorial intern for Illinois Times. He is pursuing his master’s degree at University of Illinois Springfield. Contact him at intern@illinoistimes.com.


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