Politicians' web browsing history targeted after privacy vote

Three of the nation's biggest internet service providers vowed to keep customers' web browsing histories secure, following a controversial congressional vote to kill federal web privacy rules. The 45th U.S. President signed the repeal on Monday, shortly after the Republican-led Congress barely managed to pass the polarizing bill that was harshly criticized by opposition and privacy advocacy groups.

Since President Trump took office in January, Congress has repeatedly invoked the 20-year-old law to void Obama administration regulations it believes stymie business.

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer said last week that the president's support for the bill was part of a larger effort "to fight Washington red tape that stifles American innovation, job creation and economic growth".

Opponents of the bill claim the repeal of the FCC's privacy rules is a massive blow to consumers as it allows Internet service providers (ISPs) to sell and share user browsing data without obtaining explicit consent from their customers, adding how there's not a single pro-consumer reason for the controversial bill.

Democrats alleged that the roll back of rules will give broadband providers a free rein and they will sell data to advertisers.

The choice to opt out is now off the table.

Companies like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T can now use their customers' data any way they want to without consent. Each company argued that critics of the repeal were getting ahead of themselves since the FCC's own rules on privacy did not extend to popular websites where customers' data is sold for advertisements. Pai and other Republicans want a different federal agency, the Federal Trade Commission, to police privacy for both broadband companies like AT&T and internet companies like Google.

Net neutrality has been the premier issue of internet policy wonks for years.

Schumer says if Trump signs the resolution, consumers "will be stripped of critical privacy protections in a NY minute". The rules defined eight areas of sensitive information: geolocation, web browsing histories, the contents of emails and other communications, app usage, Social Security numbers, medical information, health information, and information on children.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai is, however, supporting the repeal, saying that the privacy rules were flawed and were never implemented. "Those flawed privacy rules, which never went into effect, were created to benefit one group of favored companies, not online consumers". It is one of the best solutions for ensuring online privacy. Experts say federal law still requires broadband providers to protect customer information — but it doesn't spell out how or what companies must do, which is what the online privacy rule aimed to do.

  • Zachary Reyes