US House Votes To Kill FCC Internet Privacy Rules, Sending Bill To President Trump

Privacy is hard to come by on the Internet, that's just the way it is. But hey, at least wireless carries and Internet service providers (ISPs) are not selling your browsing history without your permission right? Well, we're sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the House of Representatives narrowly voted 215-205 to repeal broadband privacy rules that were recently introduced under the Obama administration.

The bill eked a majority vote among party lines in the Senate (50-48) last week before it headed to the House of Representatives. In both cases, a simple majority vote was needed to pass the bill. Having received the necessary votes in both cases, the bill will now be sent to President Donald Trump to either sign into law, as is expected to happen, or he can veto it.

Typing on a Laptop

What's at stake here is your browsing history and what entities get to see it. The FCC put rules into place that prevented ISPs from selling such data unless users opted in. ISPs cried foul, pointing out that companies like Google and Facebook don't have to follow the same set of rules, so neither should they. Otherwise, so-called edge providers such as search engines and social media sites have a huge advantage over ISPs in the lucrative advertising market.

"The FCC's midnight regulation does nothing to protect consumer privacy. It is unnecessary, confusing, and adds yet another innovation-stifling regulation to the Internet," Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who drafted the bill to repeal the FCC's privacy rules, said earlier this month. "My resolution is the first step toward restoring the FCC's light-touch, consumer-friendly approach. It will not change or lessen existing consumer privacy protections. It empowers consumers to make informed choices on if and how their data can be shared."

The flip side to the argument is that even though companies like Google default to opt-out policies rather than opt-in, consumers can choose not to use the services. In theory, consumers can choose their ISP as well, though in may areas choices are limited, sometimes to a single provider.

Democrats in the House lambasted the bill's passing. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) said Congress had "betrayed the American people" in regards to privacy, adding that broadband providers will now be able to sell personal information to the highest bidder while no one, not even the FTC, will be able to protect them. "If it's gone today, it's gone, period," Eshoo said.

Ready for the kicker? The bill doesn't just give ISPs permission to sell people's private Internet behavior, it also includes language to prevent the FCC from ever being able to implement similar privacy rules in the future. Oomph!
Tags:  Internet, Privacy, FCC