News Local/State

Illinois Legislators Take Up Internet Privacy

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The Illinois General Assembly is considering legislation meant to expand privacy rights on the Internet. Two of the bills cleared procedural hurdles Thursday in the House, but they both have powerful opponents. Democrats say it’s a needed corrective to what’s happening in Washington. President Trump is expected to undo privacy rules put in place at the end of the Obama administration.

If you’ve spent any amount of time online, chances are you’ve been confronted with a long privacy policy. And if you’re like most people, you scroll to the bottom and click “accept” — without reading it.

Rep. Art Turner Jr., a Democrat from Chicago, says he wants to make it easier to find out what kind of information companies are collecting from you. He says that’s particularly important since President Trump and Republicans in Congress are scaling back federal protections.

“Illinois is in a unique position now to provide privacy rights and that protection for consumers here," Turner says.

State Rep. Ann Williams, a Democrat from Chicago, is sponsoring legislation that would make companies get permission before collecting, storing or sharing a user’s precise location.

She says companies are making a lot of money off information about their customers.

"If you do some reading, you’ll be terrified and never want to use Google again, because it’s really shocking when you see how that data is used, sold, and profited from," Williams says.

But opponents, which include Illinois business groups and big tech companies, say the legislation would be burdensome and discourage innovation.

Carl Szabo is with the industry group NetChoice, whose members include Google and Facebook. He points out that backers of the legislation include lawyers who specialize in class action lawsuits over privacy violations.

“It doesn’t create a right to know, it creates a right to sue by plaintiffs attorneys pushing this bill,” Szabo says.