Politics & Government

Tacoma City Council: Click ISPs can’t collect or sell your personal info without permission

The News Tribune

Companies that offer internet service through the city’s Click Cable TV network will have to get permission before collecting or selling customer data.

The Tacoma City Council voted Tuesday to prevent internet service providers that lease space on Click’s wires from collecting or selling customers’ personal information without written approval, and the new rule blocks those companies from refusing service to those who won’t give it.

The city resolution asks that the Tacoma Public Utilities board keep Click’s internet service providers (there are currently two) from collecting and selling things such as browser history. The issue came up after President Donald Trump signed a measure that overturned Obama-era internet privacy protections earlier this month.

Following Trump’s move, state lawmakers introduced a pair of bills to require internet service providers to get permission from customers before selling personal information. Washington has no state laws governing the privacy practices of internet service providers.

“I’ve just heard lots of concerns from community members and from boosters of the Click network about privacy,” said Councilman Anders Ibsen when he introduced the city legislation at last week’s study session. “This also ensures that any private entity that rides our fiber, that uses the Click network, is held to certain ground rules, just really basic ground rules about respecting the privacy of their customers.”

The two internet service providers that currently lease space on Click’s network, Advanced Stream and Rainier Connect, both said they’re committed to customer privacy and don’t sell users’ information.

“The privacy of our customers has always been important to Advanced Stream,” CEO Mitchell Shook said in an email statement. “Advanced Stream has never collected or sold any information about our customers’ online activity.”

Brian Haynes, president and CEO of Rainier Connect, said the company follows strict privacy laws and “under no circumstances do we collect data or would ever intend to sell data. We take the same approach to all customers for all services,” he said.

According to Tacoma Public Utilities, there are about 23,500 retail customers in Tacoma using Click broadband. Councilman Robert Thoms said the hope is that the Legislature will pass a bill that would protect all of the state’s and all of Tacoma’s internet customers, instead of just those using Click.

“The hope is to get the state legislation through, and get that done, and usurp this with the state law that actually protects all Tacomans and not the 20-some-odd-thousand people or so that use Click,” Thoms said last week.

If Click is leased or sold, the prohibitions on collecting and selling customer data without permission would be kept as part of those negotiations, according to the resolution. And it will remain in effect until the federal government or the state enacts the same or farther-reaching privacy protections.

Acting city attorney Bill Fosbre told the City Council last week that he had spoken to Click’s general manager, who said the network wouldn’t have a problem implementing the new rule.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud