President Trump on Monday signed a resolution that scuttles a set of privacy rules adopted by the FCC last year, including requirements that internet providers obtain consumers’ consent before sharing or selling their browsing information and other data.
USTelecom, the trade association representing internet service providers, argued that the FCC’s rules, which had yet to go into effect, imposed a more onerous set of regulations on ISPs than those required of internet sites like Google and Facebook.
“Consumers should feel confident that the steps taken today won’t change anything other than clearing the path for regulators to institute uniform privacy rules that will keep their sensitive information private and secure,” said Jonathan Spalter, the CEO of USTelecom.
But public interest groups, congressional Democrats, and even “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert have blasted the repeal of the rules. They say that it shows the influence of big money in politics, and makes little sense given public concern over the protection of their personal information online.
The FCC’s rules would have required that internet providers obtain an “opt in” from their subscribers before they could sell or share personal information, data gathering that has proven lucrative as a way to draw advertisers. The type of information covered by the rules included browsing history and app usage. Major internet providers like Comcast say that they do not sell that information to third parties anyway and have their own privacy policies in place.
Congress last month approved the resolution to repeal the privacy rules. It also prevents the FCC from adopting similar rules in the future.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement that “American consumers’ privacy deserves to be protected regardless of who handles their personal information. “
He said that the FCC would be working with the FTC to “restore the FTC’s authority to police Internet service providers’ privacy practices.
“We need to put America’s most experienced and expert privacy cop back on the beat. And we need to end the uncertainty and confusion that was created in 2015 when the FCC intruded in this space.”
Chris Lewis, vice president at public interest group Public Knowledge, said that “most Americans have only one choice for high-speed broadband service, and now these broadband monopolies can set their own privacy policies, change them on a whim, or leave us with no protections at all.
Lewis added, “These companies can also force Americans to pay to preserve their online data, as some companies have posited. This potentially raises broadband prices for everyone and forces poor Americans to choose between their privacy and access to the internet — period.”