Senate accepts repeal of broadband privacy

© Reuters. An illustrative image shows a network cable next to a bundle of smartphones in Berlin.

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday adopted a measure to repeal regulations adopted by the Obama administration that require Internet service providers to do more to protect customer privacy than websites like Alphabet’s Google. (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc or Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:).

The Senate kicked off the debate Wednesday night under a provision that allows Congress to repeal recently passed federal regulations.

Under the rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission in October under then-President Barack Obama, ISPs would need to obtain consumer consent before using accurate geolocation, financial information, health information, children’s information, and web browsing history. for advertising and internal marketing.

Earlier this month, the FCC temporarily blocked those rules from taking effect, a victory for internet providers like AT&T Inc (NYSE 🙂 Comcast Corp (NASDAQ 🙂 and Verizon Communications Inc (NYSE 🙂 who had strongly opposed to measure.

A final Senate vote on the measure is expected on Thursday, but it was unclear when the US House of Representatives might take the measure.

“Congress needs to repeal these privacy restrictions to restore balance to the Internet ecosystem and provide certainty to consumers,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican who sponsored the measure.

But Democratic Senator Bill Nelson said broadband providers create profiles “on our children from birth. This is a data gold mine – the holy grail, so to speak. It is not surprising that broadband providers want to be able to sell this information to the highest bidder without the knowledge or consent of consumers. And they want to collect and use this information without providing transparency or accountability. “

The American Civil Liberties Union also criticized the proposal to roll back the rules.

“With this measure, Congress essentially allows companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to sell private consumer information to the highest bidder,” ACLU General Counsel Neema Singh Guliani said earlier this month.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, nominated by Republican President Donald Trump to serve a second five-year term on the commission, said earlier this month that consumers would have privacy protection even without the Internet provider’s rules. the Obama administration.

Republican commissioners, including Pai, said in October that the rules would unfairly give websites like Facebook, Twitter Inc (NYSE :), or Google the ability to collect more data than Internet service providers and thus dominate the digital advertising.

Websites are governed by a less restrictive set of privacy rules overseen by the Federal Trade Commission.

Democratic Senator Edward Markey said that “just as phone companies cannot sell information about American phone calls, an Internet service provider should not be able to sell confidential consumer information without affirmative consent.”

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