Proposed Bipartisan Bill Looks To Protect Oklahomans' Privacy On The Internet

Thursday, January 21st 2021, 7:16 am
By: Colby Thelen

A new bipartisan bill proposed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives aims to protect the privacy of Oklahomans on the internet. Lawmakers say it's one of the first of its kind in the nation.

Logging onto popular sites like Facebook, or Instagram doesn't cost users a cent. The apps are free to download, but two Oklahoma representatives say it does come with another price, the user's privacy.

They say tech companies make money by taking and selling private data.

Democratic state representative Collin Walke and Republican representative Josh West drafted a bill that requires companies to obtain explicit permission first.

It would allow users to opt-in, or consent to the information that is shared.

Representative West of Grove explained why he helped draft the legislation saying:

"For far too long, we have pretended the data that technology companies collect from us is harmless. Over the past several years, we have seen how our data can be used by tech companies to manipulate ourselves and others. That doesn't even take into consideration the fact that these companies are free to sell our information to whomever they choose. I believe in the beneficial uses of technology and that there are many positive aspects to our interconnected networks. But we must realize that when the services are free, we become the product."

Representative Walke of Oklahoma City echoed Rep. West's comments saying:

"Historically, Americans have had concerns about the extent of surveillance by the government, which is why we have the 4th Amendment. However, since the development of the internet, we have been willingly providing much more intimate information to tech companies whose sole motive is profit. The fruits of data harvesting and data manipulation are now plainly visible and lead only toward a dystopian future in which nothing we say or do is private. Our bill will ensure that tech companies only receive data that we explicitly consent to them having and allows individuals to protect that right through private causes of action."

The lawmakers see this bill as a chance for a big bipartisan win. They encourage Oklahomans who support the legislation to contact their representative.

The legislative session begins on Feb. 1.