House sends bill to Trump blocking online privacy regulation

by Edgar Hayes March 30, 2017, 0:57

On Tuesday, the US Congress voted to eliminate the online privacy rules of ISPs (Internet Service Providers).

The Trump-appointed chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, a critic of the broadband privacy rules said they could discourage new investments.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the resolution overnight, overturning a rule only introduced under the Obama administration, which meant that user permission was required before such data could be sold to third-parties.

The measure passed the GOP-led Senate March 23, along a party line vote of 50-48.

Republicans favoring the rollback of Federal Communications Commission regulations, enacted in 10 days before last year's presidential election, said the move is part of efforts to sweep away unnecessary regulation.

"We believe today's misguided vote will unleash even more "Big Data" profiling and tracking of Americans, and spur an array of discriminatory practices", said Katharina Kopp, policy director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy organization based in Washington.

"Overwhelmingly, the American people do not agree with Republicans that this information should be sold, and it certainly should not be sold without your permission", Pelosi said. For now, phone and cable companies remain subject to federal law that imposes on broadband providers a "duty to protect the confidentiality" of customer information and restricts them from using some customer data without "approval". After all, they point out, sites like Google and Facebook are basically free to use customer data however they see fit.

Republicans and industry groups have blasted that discrepancy, saying it is unfair and confusing for consumers.

Under the rules, internet providers would need to obtain consumer consent before using precise geolocation, financial information, health information, children's information and web browsing history for advertising and marketing. Also, many customers don't have more than one or two choices for broadband, reducing the possibility for privacy-friendly competition, Engadget said. He and other Republicans want a different federal agency, the Federal Trade Commission, to police privacy for both broadband companies such as AT&T and internet companies, such as Google. Additionally, the rules set forth past year also required ISPs to protect browsing data from hackers and alert customers of any breaches. Broadband providers today let you "opt out" of using their data, although figuring out how to do that can be hard.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai in a statement praised the decision of Congress to overturn "privacy regulations created to benefit one group of favoured companies over another group of disfavoured companies". Nothing would stop them from selling to the lowest bidder either, but selling stuff for as much money as possibly is just good business sense.

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