Senate votes to kill online info privacy rules
new york» The Senate voted to kill Obama-era online privacy regulations, a first step toward allowing internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to sell your browsing habits and other personal information as they expand their own online ad businesses.
Those rules, not yet in effect, would have required internet providers to ask your permission before sharing your personal information. That’s a much stronger privacyprotection weapon than letting them use your data until you tell them to stop. As anyone who has ever tried to stop getting targeted ads on the internet knows, opting out is hard.
Without those protections, consumer advocates fear that broadband providers will be able to do what they like with people’s data.
“Advertisers and marketers are lining up to get access to all the information that’s now available about us,” said Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy, which advocates for tougher internet privacy measures.
Of course, Google and Facebook already track you. But proponents of the privacy measure argued that the company that sells you your internet connection can see even more about you: every website you visit, every app that sends or receives data, everyone you email and many that you message. Telecom companies argue that companies like Google know far more about users than they do.
Consumer advocates also point out that it can be hard, in many areas of the country, to dump your cable or phone company for another one if you don’t like its practices. Of course, it’s also hard to stop using Google or Facebook.
Undoing the Federal Communications Commission’s regulation leaves people’s online information in a murky area. Today, you can tell a broadband provider not to use your data. 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 now endangered rules from the Federal Communications Commission aimed to do. “There’s kind of a void,” said Perkins Coie telecom attorney Marc Martin.
If the just-passed measure also clears the House and is signed by President Donald Trump, no future FCC could pass the broadband privacy rules again without further change to U.S. law.
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, along with other Obama-era policies meant to protect consumers and promote competition.