Democrats Launch Petition to Try to Save FCC’s Privacy Rules for Internet Providers

President Donald Trump is expected to sign a measure that would roll back consumer protections on the privacy of their data, but Democrats are making a last-ditch appeal to urge him to veto the legislation.

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) launched a petition on Whitehouse.gov on Wednesday, a day after the House passed a resolution, in a 215-205 vote, that restricts the FCC from imposing the new privacy restrictions. The Senate passed the resolution last week.

“This bill has been rushed through both the House and Senate at breakneck speed with one clear goal — to get it signed into law before the American people know about it,” Doyle said in a statement.

Last year, under then-Chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC passed new privacy rules that required internet providers to obtain subscribers’ consent before sharing data on such activity as browsing history and app usage. Broadband providers opposed the rules, arguing that they were under a more stringent set of guidelines than those imposed by the Federal Trade Commission on search engines and social media sites.

Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, appointed by President Trump, opposed the FCC privacy rules and expressed support for congressional action.

In a statement, he suggested that the FTC again oversee privacy protections for internet service providers.

“It is worth remembering that the FCC’s own overreach created the problem we are facing today,” Pai said in a statement.  “Until 2015, the Federal Trade Commission was protecting consumers very effectively, policing every online company’s privacy practices consistently and initiating numerous enforcement actions.  However, two years ago, the FCC stripped the FTC of its authority over Internet service providers.

“Moving forward, I want the American people to know that the FCC will work with the FTC to ensure that consumers’ online privacy is protected though a consistent and comprehensive framework,” he said.

Public interest groups are vowing to highlight lawmakers who voted to roll back the rules. Fight for the Future said that it plans billboards in districts of lawmakers who voted to repeal the privacy protections, including information on contributions they have received from telecom employees and political action committees.

Wheeler wrote an op-ed in The New York Times blasting the congressional move. He also pointed out that the FCC under Pai recently put on hold rules on how Internet providers had to protect confidential information of their subscribers.

“Among the many calamities engendered by the circus atmosphere of this White House is the diversion of public attention away from many other activities undertaken by the Republican-controlled government,” Wheeler wrote. “Nobody seemed to notice when the Trump F.C.C. dropped the requirement about networks protecting information because we were all riveted by the Russian hacking of the election and the attempted repeal of Obamacare.”

“There’s a lot of hypocrisy at play here: The man who has raged endlessly at the alleged surveillance of the communications of his aides (and potentially himself) will most likely soon gladly sign a bill that allows unrestrained sale of the personal information of any American using the internet.”

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