Consumer advocates are steaming over the Senate vote Thursday to repeal broadband privacy rules issued by the Federal Communications Committee last year that were set to go into effect.
The Consumer Federation of America said Friday that the Senate used “a sledgehammer, the Congressional Review Act, to smash hopes that Americans will finally have real control over the highly personal information that their broadband internet service providers can collect about them.”
The Senate voted on party lines (50 to 48) to repeal the broadband privacy rules. The House is expected to take up the measure soon.
The FCC’s rule set out that broadband users’ personal information belongs to them, not to their internet service provider.
The move, according to the New York Times, means Verizon, Comcast or AT&T can continue tracking and sharing people’s browsing and app activity without permission.
Under the FCC rule, ISPs are required to get customers’ approval to use or share their data for purposes beyond what is necessary to provide them with the service that they’re paying for, such as profiling them based on their online activities and selling that information to advertisers.
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and Federal Trade Committee Commissioner Terrell McSweeny released a joint statement Thursday, stating that if the measure is signed by President Donald Trump, “this law would repeal the FCC’s widely supported broadband privacy framework, and eliminate the requirement that cable and broadband providers offer customers a choice before selling their sensitive, personal information.”
The Consumer Federation explained that in the FCC rule, “where the default is set matters, so in the case of sensitive data – information about customers’ health, finances, children, geolocation, web browsing and app usage history, Social Security numbers, and the content of their communications – the FCC ruled that ISPs would need to obtain customers’ affirmative consent.”
Equally important, CFA argued, “the FCC said that ISPs can’t force customers to give up control of their data through ‘take it or leave it’ terms of service.”
Clyburn and McSweeny stated that the legislation will “frustrate the FCC’s future efforts to protect the privacy of voice and broadband customers. It also creates a massive gap in consumer protection law as broadband and cable companies now have no discernible privacy requirements.”
The two added that as the House votes on the bill, lawmakers should recognize “the importance of consumer privacy and not undermine the ability of Americans to exercise control over their sensitive data.”