Senate Scuttles FCC Privacy Restrictions on Internet Providers' Use of Subscriber Data

PRIVACY

The Federal Communication Commission's move to stop internet service providers from collecting customers' personal information without consent has itself been halted, as reported by BuzzFeed and The New York Times.

U.S. senators voted 50 to 48 along party lines to approve a joint resolution from Senator Jeff Flake that overturn the FCC's privacy rules.

The senate voted 50-to-48 along party lines.

On a party-line vote of 50-48, the Senate passed a joint resolution that would bar the Federal Communications Commission from enforcing rules it approved past year - when it was under Democratic control - that sought to ban internet service providers like cable and cellphone companies from selling your data without your consent.

While the broadband industry is ecstatic, calling it a way to apply privacy protections consistently, the privacy advocates are furious. "So going forward, we will work together to establish a technology-neutral privacy framework for the online world".

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that the Senate vote supports arguments about how the agency should have ensured its regulatory approach matched the Federal Trade Commission's framework. "And to the extent that they are dissimilar and created an asymmetry in terms of regulation of companies that are in the same space - online advertising space - then that kind of disjunction is something that doesn't ultimately serve consumers well".

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If customers don't want their data to be used like this by ISPs, they can specifically notify the providers, who will have to oblige; this is known as an "opt out" policy.

The FCC rules were put in place in 2016 to prevent consumers' private and sensitive information automatically getting into the hands of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. More people would choose privacy if they knew they had the option; ISPs know this, which is why they're fighting for their right to hide that option.

The House and President Donald Trump must still approve rolling back the privacy rules. If you're at home and you've got Comcast or Verizon, if you've got AT&T and they're gathering all this information about you as a broadband provider, every site you go to, everything you're doing, everything your children are doing - what they're saying as of tonight: "no privacy, no privacy for your family".

The Senate just voted to rescind the regulations and to give the Internet providers what they've been lobbying for. "Congress needs to repeal these privacy restrictions in order to restore balance to the internet ecosystem and provide certainty to consumers", said Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican who sponsored the measure.

The resolution proposed by Flake says nothing about protecting consumer privacy.

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