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Rep. Shanley bill would protect internet users’ personal information

[CREDIT: Evan Shanley] Warwick resident Evan Shanley is running to represent Dist. 24 in the General Assembly.
[CREDIT: Evan Shanley] Warwick resident Evan Shanley is running to represent Dist. 24 in the General Assembly.

Editor’s note: The following information was provided by the Legislative Press and Information Bureau.

STATE HOUSE — Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) has introduced legislation that would require businesses to disclose personal information of internet users in Rhode Island collected on websites.

Dubbed the Right-to-Know Data Transparency and Privacy Protection Act, the legislation (2018-H 7111) would protect individuals of this state from disclosure of personally identifiable information through the internet by operators of commercial websites or online services and would empower the attorney general with enforcement authority for any operator violations.

“It’s more than a little troubling to see that our internet privacy rights may be eroding at the federal level,” said Representative Shanley. “This legislation would protect the privacy of Rhode Islanders and give the attorney general the power to seek an enforcement action against operators who do not comply with the law. The right to privacy is something that is clearly woven into the tapestry of the U.S. Constitution. We must recognize the importance of providing consumers with transparency about how their personal information, especially information relating to their children, is shared by businesses.”

The legislation notes that businesses are now collecting personal information and sharing and selling it in ways not contemplated or properly covered by current state and federal law. Some websites are installing tracking tools that record when consumers visit web pages, and sending very personal information, such as age, gender, race, income, health concerns, religion and recent purchases to third-party marketers and data brokers.

Third-party data broker companies are buying, selling, and trading personal information obtained from mobile phones, financial institutions, social media sites, and other online and brick and mortar companies. Some mobile applications are sharing personal information, such as location information, unique phone identification numbers, and age, gender, and other personal details with third-party companies.

“People need to know that their information is being collected and shared with third parties so they can take whatever steps are necessary to protect their privacy, their safety and their financial security,” said Representative Shanley.

The bill would require an operator of a commercial website that collects personal information through the internet to identify all categories of personal information that the operator collects, identify all categories of third-party persons or entities with whom the operator may disclose that information, and provide a description of a customer’s rights.

The legislation, which is cosponsored by Representatives Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Aaron Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence), Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland) and Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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