Congress Weighs in on Internet Privacy Law

Yesterday in the United States, the House of Representatives voted to repeal a privacy law that meant internet service providers (ISPs) had to get permission in order to share customer's personal data, including location. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Republicans put profits over the privacy concerns of Americans.

Or, they could sell that data to online advertising markets, financial companies and anyone else who can pay to use the information without the consent of consumers, which was earlier a mandatory requirement.

If the new ruling goes into effect, those would seamlessly allow internet service providers to collect personal information from their consumers.

Some privacy advocates said they will encourage the European Union to re-examine Privacy Shield, an agreement that allows companies to move customer data between the EU and the US, in light of the congressional vote on the ISP privacy rules.

"Without prompt action in Congress or at the FCC, the FCC's regulations would break with well-accepted and functioning industry practices, chilling innovation and hurting the consumers the regulation was supposed to protect", wrote The American Association of Advertising Agencies (the 4A's) and several other advertising trade groups recently.

Supporters say federal laws and company policies will remain in place to protect consumer's personal information, but how much protection you have is now up for debate. But Senator Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said he will introduce new legislation to require the FCC to pass new ISP privacy rules. However, a handful of Republicans, including now Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, said the rules were unfairly written providing advantage to websites like Facebook, Twitter, Inc., or Google.

However, House Democrats accused Republicans of essentially throwing USA consumers' privacy rights under the bus.

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Broadband providers do not now fall under FTC jurisdiction, and advocates say the FTC has historically been a weaker agency than the FCC.

The privacy protections were approved in the final days of the Obama administration by the Federal Communications Commission.

It would be hard for a new ISP privacy bill to pass in the Republican-controlled Congress, however.

The American Civil Liberties Union urged Trump to veto the resolution. FCC chairman Ajit Pai praised the decision of Congress to overturn "privacy regulations created to benefit one group of favored companies over another group of disfavored companies".

The measure will now go before U.S. president Donald Trump, who is (unsurprisingly) likely to approve it. "They're just going to have to be more aggressive and assertive in telling the company what their preferences are", Luehr, an attorney who use to work for the FTC, told Fox 9.

Lawmakers speaking against the bill claim that former President Barack Obama's October rules provided consumers additional privacy. Also, many customers don't have more than one or two choices for broadband, reducing the possibility for privacy-friendly competition, Engadget said. These rules also called upon Internet Service Providers to strengthen protections for consumers against hackers and identity thieves.

Instead, the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation suggests you might pay to use a virtual private network, which funnels your internet traffic through a secure connection that your provider can't see into. But with the regulations made invalid, internet service providers can sell the information-unless you opt out.

  • Ronnie Bowen