On May 19, 2017, House Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the Balancing the Rights of Web Surfers Equally and Responsibility Act of 2017 (the Browser Act or the bill), which overhauls privacy requirements for both Internet service providers (ISPs) and edge providers (e.g. Facebook, Netflix) (collectively, service providers). The bill adopts policies similar to the broadband privacy rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or the Commission), which were overturned by a Congressional Review Act resolution in late March of this year.
The Browser Act would require service providers to provide their users with notice of the provider’s privacy policies; require user opt-in for sensitive information and an opt-out option for non-sensitive information; prohibit the conditioning of service on waivers of privacy rights; and specifically authorize the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to oversee the privacy practices of ISPs. Co-sponsor Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) said in a statement the bill is intended to “introduce comprehensive internet privacy legislation that will more fully protect online users in their use of Internet service providers, search engines and social media.” The bill is likely to face an uphill battle in both the House and the Senate, and has drawn mixed reviews from industry and public interest groups.