In a major development, the Republican-controlled US House of Representative today voted to revoke the broadband privacy rules that the Federal Communications Commission approved days before President Donald Trump’s election. Republicans passed the measure 215 to 205 which would overturn Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule of requiring internet service providers to get customers’ permission before selling sensitive consumer data such as browsing history.
The measure has now passed both chambers of Congress and will move to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law. The White House has said that it supports the bill. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai welcomed the passage of the resolution.
“Last year, the FCC pushed through, on a party-line vote, privacy regulations designed to benefit one group of favored companies over another group of disfavored companies. Appropriately, Congress has passed a resolution to reject this approach of picking winners and losers before it takes effect,” he said.
“It is worth remembering that the FCC’s own overreach created the problem we are facing today. Until 2015, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was protecting consumers very effectively, policing every online company’s privacy practices consistently and initiating numerous enforcement actions,” Pai said.
“However, two years ago, the FCC stripped the FTC of its authority over Internet service providers. At the time, I strongly opposed usurping the FTC, and the FCC’s struggles to address the privacy issue over the past couple of years (along with its refusal to recognise consumers’ uniform expectation of privacy) has only strengthened that view,” Pai said.
Broadband Internet Service Providers have access to customer information ranging from physical location to shopping habits and beyond.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy welcomed the passage of the bill.
“Since the dawn of the internet, the FTC has acted as America’s online privacy regulator. Last year, after the FCC acted to strip the FTC of that role, the FCC attempted to adopt flawed rules that it claimed would provide privacy protections for customers of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) but in reality created confusion and harmed competition without privacy benefits,” he said.
“The internet has become the amazing tool that it is because it is largely left untouched by regulation—and that shouldn’t stop now. The resolution we passed today will protect both consumers and the future of internet innovation by overturning this flawed FCC rule,” McCarthy said.
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Before the passage of the bill, the Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said that after this measure companies will be able to sell Americans’ most personal and sensitive information, including private browser history, without their knowledge or consent.