Published: Fri, March 31, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

What the death of broadband privacy rules means

Last week, the Senate voted to ditch consumers' privacy rights on the internet, and yesterday the House did likewise, voting to repeal broadband privacy rules issued by the Federal Communications Commission in the final months of the Obama Administration. Google and Facebook have always been relentless collectors of user data. The FCC regulation would have required ISPs to ask permission before selling that information to advertisers and others, a so-called opt-in provision. Republicans and industry groups have blasted that discrepancy, saying it was unfair and confusing for consumers.

"The Republican-controlled Congress wants broadband companies to use and sell sensitive information about Americans' health, finances, and even children, without consent", Markey said in a statement.

Undoing the FCC regulation leaves people's online information in a murky area.

Of the US representatives from Central Texas, only Democrat Lloyd Doggett opposed the repeal of the privacy rule.

I believe strongly in the need for privacy protections and support the underlying aim of the FCC's rule in this regard.

Privacy groups will continue to push to protect consumers, said Katharina Kopp, policy director at the Center for Digital Democracy.

Republican Kevin McCarthy said the FTC has acted as the online privacy regulator in the United States since the dawn of the internet.

The House of Representatives approved legislation on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, that will repeal FCC guidelines created late past year to protect user data.

The NCTA, the Internet & Television Association, said the vote "marks an important step toward restoring consumer privacy protections that apply consistently to all Internet companies".

The rollback is an effort to equalize rules governing ISPs and edge providers along the lines of the less controlling FTC approach.

Kenneth White, an internet security engineer and director of the Open Crypto Audit Project, says to avoid tools that use terms like "NSA-proof", "hacker-proof", "military-grade encryption" and "total anonymity" in their marketing. "In my view, the best way to achieve that result would be to return jurisdiction over broadband providers' privacy practices to the FTC, with its decades of experience and expertise in this area".

Donald Trump is expected to sign the measure sometime soon.

Republicans repeatedly discounted the privacy benefits generated by the rule.

So instead, they're going to get no regulation at all on this matter.

"Lawmakers who voted in favor of this bill just sold out the American people to special interests", said Democrat Jared Polis.

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