Trump Signs Internet Privacy Repeal Bill

The bill repeals broadband privacy rules adopted a year ago by the Federal Communications Commission, which required ISPs to obtain subscribers' consent before using their browsing records for advertising or marketing purposes.

"The vote in Congress to repeal the broadband privacy rules, allowing internet service providers to spy on their customers and sell their data without consent, is a bad setback for the American public", said Susan Grant of the Consumer Federation of America.

The Senate voted along party lines to repeal the rule, with 50 Republicans voting yes and 48 Democrats rejecting the measure, Reuters reports.

This new regulation sparks from the Congressional Review Act which allows for Congress to repeal any previous passed regulations. "We did not do it before the FCC's rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so", wrote Gerard Lewis, chief privacy officer at Comcast in public policy. The Obama-era rule, which had not yet taken effect, would have required companies to receive user permission before selling their data to third parties.

Pai is alluding to the notion that companies like Google and Facebook have the ability to sell people's personal data to advertisers, while the clarity and degree of consent is sometimes dubious.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer left no doubt that Trump would sign the rollback, saying the Obama administration sought to favor social media companies and search engines at the expense of broadband providers.

Comcast says it also protects other sensitive data such as health and banking information. There had been complaints that the FCC's rules applied to ISPs but not websites such as Facebook and Google. These protections - which had not yet gone into effect - were approved by the Federal Communications Commission in the final days of the Obama administration.

It is unbelievable that Republican members of Congress could look at those numbers and decide they need to sell out Americans' online privacy for those internet providers to maximize their profits.

Some of the Congress is also of the opinion that the ISP's will sell personal data to the highest bidder. But critics of the FCC privacy rules argued that the regulations placed stricter requirements on broadband companies than on tech firms, creating an imbalance that could only be resolved by rolling back the FCC rules and designing something new.

It's unclear when Trump plans to sign the bill. However, according to the argument by the Republicans on the House floor, the rules were confusing and unfair for the Internet providers. "Consumers deserve the right to make their own decisions about access, use, and sale of their personal, sensitive internet data by their broadband provider". In order to deliver that consistent and comprehensive protection, the Federal Communications Commission will be working with the Federal Trade Commission to restore the FTC's authority to police Internet service providers' privacy practices.

  • Zachary Reyes