Congress Votes to Let Internet Providers Sell Your Data Without Permission

by Ben Pena April 4, 2017, 4:53
Congress Votes to Let Internet Providers Sell Your Data Without Permission

The rule was passed previous year by the U.S. regulator with a majority of Democrats appointed by former president Barack Obama, a scenario that has been reversed with the election of President Donald Trump.

The tech industry, which has been relatively quiet on issues like net neutrality under the new administration, also expressed dismay at the vote. Opponents argue that the Federal Trade Commission should oversee internet providers. That's what the FCC rule aimed to do. "Just last week, I bought underwear on the internet", he said. As the Washington Post reported, service providers, including online giants such Verizon and Comcast (MSNBC's parent company), "will be able to monitor their customers' behavior online and, without their permission, use their personal and financial information to sell highly targeted ads - making them rivals to Google and Facebook in the $83 billion online advertising market".

"Broadband providers know deeply personal information about us and our families", Pelosi said on the House floor. Tuesday's measure followed a fierce debate over the rule that would have required service providers to get permission before selling customer data to third parties. It also allows ISPs to use and share other information, including e-mail addresses and service tier information, unless a customer "opts-out". "This week, the Senate voted to reverse the FCC's overreach, enabling lawmakers-not unelected bureaucrats-to take the lead on online privacy policy". The FCC approved the repealed rules during the final weeks of Barack Obama's presidency. Congress has only given the commission authority over telecommunications companies, so the FCC couldn't have come up with rules that applied to other businesses even if it wanted to.

One critic of the repeal, Craig Aaron, president of Free Press advocacy group, said major Silicon Valley companies shied away from the fight over the rules because they profit from consumer data.

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Republican Kevin McCarthy said the FTC has acted as the online privacy regulator in the United States since the dawn of the internet. He called the rule an effort to strip the agency of that role. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said allowing the FCC and FTC to regulate different swaths of consumers' Internet use would "create confusion within the Internet ecosystem and end up harming consumers".

Despite the repeal being passed, there was staunch opposition, including from 15 Republicans who crossed the floor to vote against the measure. On Tuesday the House of Representatives voted to repeal Internet privacy protections. "We don't want the government having access to our information without our consent, and the same goes for private business", Yoder said. "In my view, the best way to achieve that result would be to return jurisdiction over broadband providers' privacy practices to the FTC, with its decades of experience and expertise in this area".

Ajit Pai, the Trump-appointed Federal Communications Commission chairman, said existing privacy protections would remain in place.


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