Almost half of Washington’s state lawmakers have signed on to support proposals aimed at securing internet privacy after changes to federal law.
OLYMPIA — In light of changes to federal law, nearly half of Washington’s state lawmakers have signed on to support of proposals aimed at securing internet privacy.
The move comes after President Donald Trump on Monday signed a measure rolling back internet-privacy protections that had been scheduled to go into effect.
Those protections, which came through the Federal Communications Commission’s rule-making process, would have made it harder for companies to track and sell their customers’ data, such as web browser histories and app usage.
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Among other things, the bills would require internet providers or telecommunications companies operating in the state to get the consent of customers before collecting or using their personal information.
The measures have broad bipartisan support. Introduced by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, SB 5919 has 32 sponsors out of the 49-member Senate. HB 2200, introduced by Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, has 37 sponsors from the 98-member House.
“I believe that we’ve got to step up” on privacy protections, Ranker said.
He said he’s received hundreds of phone calls and emails from constituents concerned about the federal law.
Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, said work is likely needed on the language of SB 5919. But Fain, a bill co-sponsor, said he sees the proposal as a “values statement.”
People should have an “expectation of privacy with their online tools,” Fain said.
The new federal rollback has sparked states to move quickly to consider their own internet-privacy proposals, according to Ernesto Falcon, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Hawaii and Minnesota are exploring proposals, and California is expected to as well, said Falcon, legislative counsel for the San Francisco-based civil-liberties organization.
“These are all cropping up very quickly,” Falcon said.
It isn’t known, however, if the Washington Legislature will act, according to Ranker and Fain, because new bills generally aren’t considered this late in the session unless they are tied to drafting the state budget. The session started in January.
“But we’ve got enough support in both chambers, and both of them bipartisan, that I think we can have a thoughtful conversation,” Ranker said.
Gov. Jay Inslee hasn’t reviewed the proposals, according to spokeswoman Tara Lee.
But, “the governor agrees with the principles behind these bills as he believes that something needs to be done in light of the recent federal actions around internet privacy,” Lee wrote in an email.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office, which enforces Washington’s consumer-protection act, is reviewing the bills.
The attorney general, however, “is very supportive of what the Legislature hopes to accomplish and looks forward to working with members on these bills,” Ferguson spokesman Peter Lavallee wrote in an email.