House: Block Obama’s on­line pri­vacy rule

Bill sent to Trump is first step in al­low­ing brows­ing data sales.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Kevin Fek­ing

The House voted Tuesday to block on­line pri­vacy reg­u­la­tions is­sued dur­ing the fi­nal months of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, a first step to­ward al­low­ing in­ter­net providers such as Com­cast, AT&T and Ver­i­zon to sell in­for­ma­tion about the brows­ing habits of their cus­tomers.

The Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion rule was de­signed to give con­sumers greater con­trol over how in­ter­net ser­vice providers share in­for­ma­tion. But crit­ics said the rule would have added costs, sti­fled in­no­va­tion and picked win­ners and losers among In­ter­net com­pa­nies.

The House voted 215-205 to re­ject the rule, and sent the leg­is­la­tion to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for his signature. The vote is part of an ex­ten­sive ef­fort that Repub­li­cans have un­der­taken to void an ar­ray of reg­u­la­tions is­sued dur­ing the fi­nal months of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ten­ure.

House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi con­tended that the Repub­li­can-led ef­fort was about putting prof­its over the pri­vacy con­cerns of Amer­i­cans.

“Over­whelm­ingly, the Amer­i­can peo­ple do not agree with Repub­li­cans that this in­for­ma­tion should be sold, and it cer­tainly should not be sold with­out your per­mis­sion,” Pelosi said. “Our broad­band providers know deeply per­sonal in­for­ma­tion about us and our fam­i­lies.”

But the rules al­ready don’t ap­ply to in­ter­net com­pa­nies like Google, which aren’t re­quired to ask users’ per­mis­sion be­fore track­ing what sites they visit. Repub­li­cans and in­dus­try groups have blasted that dis­crep­ancy, say­ing it is un­fair and con­fus­ing for con­sumers.

Un­do­ing the FCC reg­u­la­tion leaves peo­ple’s on­line in­for­ma­tion in a murky area. Ex­perts say fed­eral law still re­quires broad­band providers to pro­tect cus­tomer in­for­ma­tion — but it doesn’t spell out how, or what com­pa­nies must do. That’s what the FCC rule aimed to do.

The Trump-ap­pointed chair­man of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is a critic of the broad­band pri­vacy rules and has said he wants to roll them back. He and other Repub­li­cans want a dif­fer­ent fed­eral agency, the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion, to po­lice pri­vacy for both broad­band com­pa­nies like AT&T and in­ter­net com­pa­nies like Google. GOP law­mak­ers say they care about con­sumer pri­vacy ev­ery bit as much as Democrats, but want a more co­her­ent sys­tem.

“What Amer­ica needs is one stan­dard across the in­ter­net ecosys­tem and the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion is the best place for that stan­dard,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

But broad­band providers don’t cur­rently fall un­der FTC ju­ris­dic­tion, and ad­vo­cates say the FTC has his­tor­i­cally been a weaker agency than the FCC.

Pelosi said GOP bill puts prof­its over pri­vacy.

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