House votes to block Obama-era online privacy regulations

The White House said President Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump strongly supports the repeal of the rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission in October under then-President Barack Obama.

Internet companies such as Google do not have to ask users' permission before tracking what sites they visit.

Advocates for tough privacy protections online called Tuesday's vote "a tremendous setback for America".

Pai added that the FCC would work with the Federal Trade Commission to ensure consumers' online privacy would be protected through a "consistent and comprehensive framework".

The move followed a fierce debate over digital privacy protections over the rule that would have required service providers to get permission before selling customer data to third parties.

While the Federal Communications Commission was moving towards enforcing rules that banned internet service providers and cable companies from sharing their customer's personal information without express consent, this new bill could allow companies to sell sensitive information (like web browsing history) to the highest bidder.

The House has voted to block online privacy regulations issued during the final months of the Obama administration. That could be a boon for companies such as Verizon and Comcast as they race to become online advertising giants.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai in a statement praised the decision of Congress to overturn "privacy regulations created to benefit one group of favored companies over another group of disfavored companies".

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

"While some government intervention is occasionally justified to protect the privacy of citizens, in this case the FCC overstepped its bounds, implementing a rule that only targeted internet service providers, but not other internet technology companies", he said. With Tuesday's vote, such programs could see a return and be marketed as a way to access cheaper Internet - though consumer groups have criticized these plans as a way for providers to charge customers a premium for their privacy. "In reality, the FCC's rules arbitrarily treat ISP's differently", he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union said, "it is extremely disappointing that Congress is sacrificing the privacy rights of Americans in the interest of protecting the profits of major internet companies including Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon".

"However, two years ago, the FCC stripped the FTC of its authority over Internet service providers". If this new measure is passed, it could also potentially change whether or not internet service providers have to notify customers about harmful security breaches. He also said that responsibility for regulating Internet providers should fall to the FTC. GOP lawmakers said they cared about consumer privacy every bit as much as Democrats did.

Pai has previously said his agency could continue to bring lawsuits against firms that are alleged to have violated consumer privacy, even if the FCC privacy rules were to be repealed.

Broadband providers do not now fall under FTC jurisdiction, and advocates say the FTC has historically been a weaker agency than the FCC.

  • Arturo Norris