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Protecting online privacy

In the digital age, threats to the privacy of law-abiding Americans are all too real. Today’s smart phones and other on-the-go devices provide consumers with unprecedented portability, functionality, and personalization. They also give service providers access to a treasure trove of information regarding where their customers go, what they buy and what they read.  

Senator Coons’ privacy priorities include:

  • Protecting consumers from unwanted tracking. When it was reported that GM planned to use OnStar to track its customers even after they cancelled their service, Senator Coons stepped in and demanded that they change course. He supports giving consumers a choice when it comes to the use of their personal information.
  • Updating privacy laws to reflect modern technology.  Congress last passed major legislation to protect privacy of Americans’ electronic files in 1986, long before GPS, webmail, and cloud computing were a part of everyday life.  Current law allows the government to obtain customer emails or location information without a warrant.  Senator Coons supports updating the law to bring privacy protections in line with consumer expectations. 
  • Security that doesn’t sacrifice privacy. Ben Franklin said that “he who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.” Too often, Americans have been asked to give up hard-earned civil liberties in the name of the fight against terrorism or another threat.  Senator Coons doesn’t believe that U.S. citizens should have to make that choice. He opposed extension of the USA Patriot Act because that bill did not make any privacy improvements we know to be necessary based on 10 years of Patriot Act implementation. Senator Coons also supports stronger oversight on the use of counterespionage authorities in the U.S. so that these authorities are not used to do an end-run around citizens’ constitutional rights.  In considering legislation on cyber security, Senator Coons was a leading voice fighting for strict limitations on any new authority to share private customer information with the government.