WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) spoke on the Senate Floor about her introduction of S.1116, the Balancing the Rights of Web Surfers Equally and Responsibly (BROWSER) Act. The BROWSER Act requires communications and technology companies to provide users with clear and conspicuous notice of their privacy policies and the ability to opt-in to the collection of sensitive information and to opt-out of the collection of non-sensitive information. It also prohibits these companies from denying their service to users who refuse to waive their privacy rights, empowers the Federal Trade Commission to enforce these rules, and ensures we have a consistent national law regarding online privacy.
Watch Senator Blackburn’s full floor remarks by clicking below or HERE.
Senator Blackburn previously introduced this bill in the House of Representatives during the 115th Congress.
Transcript of Floor Remarks (as prepared):
Today, I rise to speak to you about the legislation I introduced in the Senate this week: S. 1116, the BROWSER Act.
Broadband, or high-speed internet, has absolutely revolutionized the way we communicate, the way we conduct commerce and, actually, the way we participate in government.
Broadband is one of the greatest innovations in history.
It allows near instantaneous exchange of information and brings efficiencies to the daily lives of millions of Americans as they move more of their transactional life online.
Thanks to Broadband, entrepreneurs have been able to bring thousands of new applications to consumers.
These “edge services” are now an essential part of our lives.
We find ourselves everyday saying, “I can’t imagine what we did before we had this, or before we had that.”
These “apps” give consumers access to entertainment, news, information, help us drive around town, and access to emergency services.
As consumers use these apps, they generate massive amounts of data about themselves… and that is the problem.
Many companies collect this data and use it for a range of purposes without the user’s knowledge.
Without your knowledge. They’re collecting all this.
Every bill you pay and every website that you visit.
These platforms are following you.
So, Mr. President, after all this information is shared, the question is:
Who owns the Virtual You?
Who owns you and your presence online? Our laws have not kept pace with technological change.
Now, we see some states – and we’ve even got some cities – that are adding more complexity to the problem by enacting their own privacy rules and standards, despite the fact that digital commerce is not restricted to one area.
Digital commerce is interstate and global in nature.
Mr. President, it is time we had a consistent national law regarding online privacy.
We need one set of rules and one regulator for the entire internet ecosystem. It just makes sense.
That is why I introduced the legislation I previously proposed as a member of the House of Representatives. And, as I said, it is called the BROWSER Act.
Americans want to be certain that their privacy is protected both in the physical and the virtual space.
Broadband users, which are each and every one of us, should have the right to say who can or cannot access their private data.
Think about it. At this point, how and when you pay your bills, the credit cards that you use, the sites that you visit, the merchandise that you shop for, friends that you connect with.
There is somebody tracking that activity.
Every move of the mouse: they’re on it.
Consumers should have the right to clear and conspicuous notice of service provider’s privacy policies, and the ability to either opt-in or opt-out depending on the sensitive nature of that data.
The BROWSER Act requires digital service to provide users with clear and conspicuous notice of their rights.
It also requires digital services to provide users the ability to opt-in to the collection of sensitive information while also giving users the ability to opt-out of the collection of non-sensitive information.
By allowing for a clear and conspicuous notification process, consumers will be able to make a more educated choice about the nature of the relationships they want to have with online vendors and with tech companies.
Furthermore, the BROWSER Act will prohibit digital services from denying the service to users who refuse to waive their personal privacy rights.
The BROWSER Act also empowers the FTC (the Federal Trade Commission) to enforce these rules using its unfair or deceptive acts or practices authorities.
Now, the FTC has been our privacy regulator in both the physical and the online space.
Just this week, Senator Klobuchar and I sent a letter to the FTC urging stronger action for bad actors in the tech space.
Companies like Facebook and Google have transformed society in revolutionary ways and need to recognize that with that great power, comes great responsibility.
This is the 21st century. It is not the Wild West.
These tech companies need to be respectful of your privacy rights.
My hope is through bipartisan effort, we will shed light on the need to protect online competition and privacy to keep up with the fast pace changes in technology.
The FTC has a responsibility to hold tech companies accountable for securing their platforms.
We need them to step up and be the cop on the beat in the virtual space.
Before I yield the floor, I want to make one last point.
The BROWSER Act treats everyone in broadband and edge companies the same.
One regulator, one set of rules: this is commonsense.
Unfortunately, yesterday, Democrats in the House passed a bill to regulate broadband service providers.
But, guess what? Guess what?
They didn’t do anything to big tech.
They didn’t do anything about privacy with Google, with Facebook, with Yahoo – these people that collect your data and sell it to the highest bidder – and then that person markets back to you.
When I chaired the Communications Subcommittee in the House, I repeatedly offered to work with the other side of the aisle to preserve a free and open internet.
I am always happy to work together to find a legislative solution and put this so-called Net Neutrality issue to rest once and for all.
But, rather than work together on this, the House pushed through a hyper-partisan bill to re-instate a controversial heavy-handed regulation of communications companies.
But, Heaven forbid, they do not want to touch Big Tech who are their big buddies.
Leader McConnell has said, and I am so grateful he has said, this bill coming from the House is “dead on arrival” in the Senate... and I look forward to continuing to work on this issue.
But, here is what my friends across the aisle and my friends in the House need to realize: the internet is not broken. The internet is not broken.
Many of you, Madam President, probably have an electronic device close at hand. It is working just fine.
The internet does not need the intervention of Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats. It is just fine. It is going to be fine by itself.
In fact, as an alternative, we could just strike out the text of the House bill and insert the BROWSER Act in its place.
One set of rules. One set of rules for the entire internet ecosystem.
One set of rules enforced by one federal regulator. That’s the BROWSER Act. It’s about fairness.
It’s about encouraging innovation. It’s about making certain we keep a fair and open Internet.
Madam President, I yield the floor.
Yesterday, Senator Blackburn spoke at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Big Tech censorship. Watch her remarks HERE.
Earlier this week, Senator Blackburn urged the FTC to take action to address concerns regarding potential privacy, data security, and antitrust violations involving online platforms. Read more HERE.