Less than a month after WikiLeaks revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency can hack common household technology to spy on people, the Republican-controlled Senate has overturned an Obama-era regulation that protected Americans from privacy invasions by private companies.
Congress is set to vote Thursday to nullify the new broadband privacy rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission past year.
The law would have required the providers (ISPs) to get explicit consent from users before allowing advertisers to buy or target against web browsing histories, geolocation or anonymized subscriber data like income and address.
The rules would have forced internet providers like Comcast and Verizon to ask customers' permission before using or selling their personal information.
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"This is an important victory for all who benefit from the data-driven marketing economy, including tens of thousands of businesses and nonprofit organizations and hundreds of millions of consumers", Data & Marketing Association Senior Vice President Emmett O'Keefe said today in a statement.
Following the decision by the Senate, the proposal now passes to the House of Representatives which has an overwhelming Republican majority and is likely to be approved. Unsurprisingly, the vote was praised by industry groups representing broadband providers. Earlier this month, the FCC temporarily blocked those rules from taking effect, a victory for internet providers such as AT&T Inc Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc that had strongly opposed the measure.
"Americans lost a crucial right today as the GOP-controlled Senate voted to overturn the only federal protection that could have protected their privacy online", Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy said in an email.
"Your home broadband provider can know when you wake up each day-either by knowing the time each morning that you log on to the Internet to check the weather/news of the morning, or through a connected device in your home", Sen. This is the antithesis of putting #ConsumersFirst, " FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny said.
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. "The American people do not want their sensitive information collected, used and sold by any third party, whether that be your broadband provider or a hacker,"Sen". The reality is that ISP's really don't have that much information on their users - the data they do collect is not as specific as some may worry, and the process to obtain more detailed information like which websites their users visit is a hard one.