Action needed: protect your biometric privacy!

Today, as Mark Zuckerburg goes in front of a combined Senate committee hearing to again explain his company's actions in their abusive practices in selling your data to Cambridge Analytica, industry groups partially funded by Facebook are in Springfield, Illinois trying to reduce the legal protections we have around our personal biometric data.

Biometrics are the data that physically identify you. These can be everything from genetic material, to blood type, to fingerprints, to identifying facial photographs. Unlike an email address, a password, or credit card number, your biometrics don't change. If they are spread or shared without your knowledge or consent, you cannot go back and change them and invalidate the old data. This by necessity means everyday people should have more control over their personal biometric information.

In Illinois, the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) is the country's leading and most comprehensive legislation to protect this sensitive information. It provides consumers reasonable control over their data, while allowing companies to still make use of it should they get consent from the people they collect this data from.

Facebook and others would love nothing but to see BIPA ended so they can continue collecting personal data to sell to companies like Cambridge Analytica in the future. To do so, they've introduced IL SB 3053, which creates loopholes so large in BIPA a company would have to be trying to wind up regulated under the proposed changes. SB 3053 must not be allowed out of committee!

To register your opposition to the bill, please visit the IL General Assembly witness slip page for the bill. Fill out:

  1. Your personal details
  2. Who you represent. "Self" if you're just signing for yourself, otherwise the group you're speaking on behalf of.
  3. Select opposition to the original bill, and "Record of Appearance Only". 

Together, we can help save Illinois privacy protections!

WGN 720's Justin Kaufmann on HB 3449

WGN 720's Justin Kaufmann on HB 3449

Last night on WGN Radio, Justin Kaufmann had Industry Outreach Director Matt Erickson on to discuss privacy issues across the United States and what Illinois was doing to protect their citizens in light of failing Federal protections

Historic Data Privacy Bill Reaches Governor's Desk

Last night, NBC's Katie Kim did an extraordinary segment on Illinois House Bill 3449 - the Geolocation Privacy Protection Act. The piece featured our very own Board of Director Peter Hanna and our Industry Outreach Director Matthew Erickson explaining why such basic transparency is needed to protect ourselves and our families. “Geolocation data is in some ways the holy grail of personal data,” said Peter Hanna, co-founder of the Digital Privacy Alliance and a data privacy attorney. “Where we are, where we go – it’s among the most intimately private information about our day-to-day lives.” In fact, just this past July the FBI issued a warning to parents telling them that Internet connected devices pose dangers to our children's privacy and physical safety.  

The corporate giants who oppose the bill conveniently say that it does not provide additional protections - yet, they could not be more wrong. Current law does not require mobile applications to get consent before tracking and selling your location information. In fact, companies regularly collect such information without your knowledge, as evidenced by a report showing that the popular app AccuWeather could collect location information even when location sharing was off.

Fortunately, the Illinois Legislature understood that this bill remedies a public safety issue of the highest order and passed it with bipartisan support. As concerned parent Andre Delattre puts it, "It’s just a basic right to know issue. If someone is going to collect and store information about me or my daughter or both of us, then the very least I ought to be afforded is to know that that’s the case.”


NPR Illinois: The Battle Over Transparency And Privacy In The Digital Age

NPR Illinois: The Battle Over Transparency And Privacy In The Digital Age

NPR's Daisy Contreras covers the fight for bringing the Right to Know and Geolocation Privacy Protection Acts into law in Illinois.

Tackling An Important Question: "Why do so many tech products seem to ignore the unique safety threats that women experience online?"

"Why do so many tech products seem to ignore the unique safety threats that women experience online?"

Great question. This article provides some insight as to why the tech industry isn't thinking about the consequences of their actions and why the Geolocation Privacy Protection Act sponsored by Ann M. Williams - State Representative and Senator Tom Cullerton is so timely and important.

cc: Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation Social Change Tom Dart ACLU of Illinois Illinois PIRG Governor Bruce Rauner

The Geolocation Privacy Bill Passes Both Chambers!!!

We have incredible news to share: The ILLINOIS GEOLOCATION PRIVACY PROTECTION ACT HAS OFFICIALLY PASSED BOTH HOUSES and will soon be sent to Governor Rauner's desk.

We want to thank chief sponsor Ann M. Williams - State Representative for her hard work and amazing advocacy. Her closing remarks during today's floor debate were especially compelling:

“Internet security is a huge industry with a lot of issues we can’t possibly solve in a day. This legislation just scratches the surface but it does let people know we’re going to do what we can to keep them safe. This is common sense legislation that simply requires companies to let you know before using and sharing the geolocation data they collect when tracking your whereabouts. We believe people have a right to know who has their information and how they plan to use it.”

We also want to thank Senator Tom Cullerton for championing this important bill through the Illinois Senate, and all of the civil rights, advocacy groups, and TECH COMPANIES that supported this bill and contributed mightily to its passage, including ACLU of IllinoisIllinois PIRGChicago Alliance Against Sexual ExploitationCenter for Democracy & TechnologySocial ChangeIndivisible IllinoisWestside Justice CenterCook County Sheriff's Office (Official)Illinois Attorney GeneralSpiderOakDatamadeData FoundryChicago CityscapeOpen Tech Strategies. We couldn't have done this without you. Thank you.

But no time celebrate. It's time to begin educating Governor Rauner and his staff about all the reasons why this bill is absolutely imperative to protect the public, restore online privacy and trust, foster competition, and level the playing field so that our technology companies in Illinois can compete with the behemoths in Silicon Valley. Take a look at the Illinois tech community's open letter urging Governor Rauner to sign the bill for these very reasons.


Geolocation Privacy Bill Advances To Full House Vote for Concurrence

Major update out of Springfield. The Illinois Geolocation Privacy Protection Act just passed out of committee on concurrence, meaning that the members have approved the amendments (which were minor) that were made by the Senate. The bill is now headed for a full floor vote in the House. If a majority of the House votes to approve the amendments, the bill would go straight to Governor Rauner's desk.

Thank you to Ann M. Williams - State Representative for her incredible testimony this morning, and thank you to Senator Tom Cullerton, ACLU of IllinoisIllinois PIRGChicago Alliance Against Sexual ExploitationCenter for Democracy & TechnologyTodd Belcore, and Social Change for your continued support and advocacy. We still have a long way to go but this is a very big step.

We are receiving many phone calls and emails from folks asking us how they can help. Here's the answer: Call your Representative and tell them to Vote Yes on House Bill 3449. These phone calls really do make a difference. You can use the tool below to identify and contact your Representative.

 We'll post updates as they become available.

Tom Dart on WGN's "The Chicago Way with John Kass"

Tom Dart on WGN's "The Chicago Way with John Kass"

Recently Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart was on The Chicago Way with John Kass on WGN. He talks about recent successes regarding the Cook County Jail system, and goes into detail regarding the Right to Know Act about halfway through. Give it a listen!

Over 200 Million American Voters Data Leaked

Over 200 Million American Voters Data Leaked

The Intercept reports that personal data for nearly every American voter was exposed by a GOP data mining firm. Poor stewardship over gigantic databases of personal data is one of, if not the, key reason why Americans need more transparency for where their personal information winds up.

URGENT ACTION ALERT: Illinois Geolocation Privacy Protection Act

Attention everyone! The landmark Geolocation Privacy Protection Act (HB 3449) is being heard in the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning at 10:30AM. This bill recently passed the Illinois House of Representatives:

The Geolocation Privacy Protection Act requires companies that store or share your precise location data to get your opt-in consent first before storing or sharing it. This is important and different than the opt-in your phone has to give apps access to the GPS on the phone. You may want to enable a mapping app to use your location to know where you are, or a news app to be able to give you relevant data for your city, but you may also want to know and have a say in if your data is then sold off to third parties. Real dangers can happen with unrestricted use of one's geolocation data, including but not limited to systematic racial discrimination, using where you call home as a signifier of race.

The Illinois General Assembly has a system of being able to file witness slips in support of bills like this, and legislators pay close attention to them. All of the slips will be entered into the record by the committee on Tuesday before the hearing. High slip counts are critical to passing important legislation that the powerful internet tech lobbies oppose. If you support this kind of common sense privacy, please fill out a slip!

To file a witness slip, fill out your name and address, “self” for who you’re representing if not witnessing for an organization directly, select that you’re a proponent of the bill, and select “Record of Appearance Only” for type of testimony.

File a witness slip for the Geolocation Privacy Protection Bill here!

DPA Update: Internet Transparency Measure Clears Illinois Senate

DPA Update: Internet Transparency Measure Clears Illinois Senate

Chicago, Ill., May 10, 2017 The Illinois Senate took a monumental step for consumer privacy protections last week when it passed Senate Bill 1502, the Right to Know Act.

Backed by the unwavering support of Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and sponsored by Senator Michael Hastings, the Right to Know Act provides consumers with a “right to know” what personal information websites and apps are collecting from their cell phones and computers, and with whom they are sharing it. A companion bill sponsored by Representative Art Turner has already passed out of committee in the House.

The Right to Know Act does not require companies to change their business practices in any way. It simply adds a measure of transparency that would allow consumers to make informed decisions about which websites and apps they do business with.

As internet privacy protections continue to unravel at the federal level, private citizens have increasingly expressed disdain for the secret data collection and disclosure policies of some internet companies and are demanding transparency. Last month the Digital Privacy Alliance commissioned a statewide survey that revealed more than 94% of Illinois registered voters disapprove of “corporations collecting, sharing, or selling” their personal information without their knowledge, while 80% said that if provided the opportunity they would request to know the names of the third parties with whom their personal information is shared and sold. Tellingly, more than 1,200 Illinois citizens, technologists, and tech companies have filed witness slips in support of the Right to Know Act.

The opposition – namely a number of multibillion-dollar tech companies based out of state – has chosen a rather ironic strategy to counter the overwhelming public support for this transparency bill: spread misinformation by telling lawmakers the bill would stifle innovation and scare tech companies away from Illinois. The groups making these far-fetched claims haven’t offered a shred of evidence to back up their thesis and haven’t bothered to consult with the companies at the epicenter of Illinois’ burgeoning tech scene.

As one Senator announced during last week’s floor debate, “Every technology company that I’ve spoken to, from Microsoft down to Uber and Lyft...are opposed to this bill.” Of course they are. These companies do not reflect the views of Illinois’ tech industry or small businesses, and certainly are not out to protect their interests.

This tension was highlighted in a recent op-ed by Derek Eder published in Crain's Chicago Business. Eder, founder of Chicago-based tech company DataMade, longtime member of startup hub 1871, and organizer of Chi Hack Night, makes the case for the Right to Know law. He concludes the piece by stating that “enhancing consumers’ privacy by making data collection practices more transparent will not hamper the ability for small businesses and tech startups in Illinois to thrive – in fact, it will do just the opposite.”

As the Right to Know Act now moves its way through the Illinois House of Representatives, it is the DPA’s hope that legislators on both sides of the aisle will continue to put their constituents’ interests over those of the out-of-state internet companies that want to continue collecting and selling personal data behind the backs of Illinois consumers.

For more information about the DPA and how to get involved, contact Industry Outreach Director Matt Erickson at

About the Digital Privacy Alliance

The Digital Privacy Alliance is a coalition of technologists, startups, computer engineers, developers, activists, lawyers, and civic hackers that fight for internet privacy legislation in statehouses across the country. Our members help policymakers learn about new and emerging technologies, testify before legislative bodies, and advocate for laws that promote transparency on the internet. For more information visit