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 merickson@digitalprivacyalliance.org

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 https://digitalprivacyalliance.org/.