Electronics and internet service providers in Florida will soon be required to share personal information about customers with the state government, according to a draft law that passed the state House of Representatives earlier this month.
The measure, SB 641, is a draft version of a law already on the books in Georgia, Florida and Mississippi, according the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
The bill is also expected to be signed into law by Gov.
Rick Scott by the end of the week.
“I’m very pleased to see that this legislation is now on the table,” said EPIC Executive Director, Chris Calabrese.
“The bills we’ve seen in Georgia and Florida over the past few years were designed to provide for an online privacy law, not one that would be enacted into law,” Calabrees statement said.
“With the passage of this bill in Florida, it will now be possible for the public to have full access to all the privacy information about Floridaians they request.
This will also allow Floridaians to choose what services they want to share with their ISP, a process that will enable greater transparency and privacy in their online lives.”
Privacy advocates were quick to criticize the bill as a move to expand state surveillance.
“This is a chilling piece of legislation, which means it will be easy for law enforcement to target and harass people online,” said EFF Executive Director Chris Calabresse.
A recent study from the New America Foundation showed that internet service provider providers, such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, are among the largest spammers and data collection sites in the country.
The draft law has sparked outrage among privacy advocates, who argue that it is a move by the government to spy on the internet and online privacy by requiring internet service companies to share customer information with the government.
“What this bill really does is give the government more access to every single user’s internet activity,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation Legal Director, Marcia Hofmann.
“And what that means is the government will be able to see every single email, every single website you visit, every blog you visit.”
EFF’s Calabreres statement continued: “This legislation is not about cybersecurity, it is about the government expanding its surveillance powers.
It is an extreme step backward from the open internet that EFF has fought so hard for.”
In January, a similar bill was introduced in Texas.
The bill, SB 14, was approved by Texas’ House of Representative in late January.
“It’s a bad day for privacy,” said Jennifer Lynch, a professor at the University of New Hampshire Law School.
“Texas and Florida have both passed similar bills that have been approved by the state’s state legislature, but neither of them have had any meaningful impact.
This bill will be the next step in the trend of more and more state and local governments enacting surveillance measures that would sweep up everything we do online.”
The Electronic Privacy Act is now expected to take effect in Florida in March, according EPIC.
EPIC says Florida will join the likes of Texas, Georgia and Mississippi in imposing new surveillance laws on the state.
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