Trump signs bill blocking online privacy regulation

EnlargeGetty Images | Gary Waters

On March 23, the Republican-controlled Senate voted strictly along party lines in favor of the bill to kill the FCC regulations. "We had the same protections in place the day before the Congressional resolution was passed, and we will have the same protections the day after President Trump signs the CRA into law", he said. "We did not do it before the FCC's rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so", said Comcast senior vice president, deputy general counsel and chief privacy officer Gerard Lewis in a blog post. Additionally, the rules would have required those companies to protect customers' data against hackers.

The action is the latest in a string of reversals of Obama administration rules.

The American Civil Liberties Union had said last month Congress should have opposed "industry pressure to put profits over privacy" and added "most Americans believe that their sensitive internet information should be closely guarded".

"We want to stress that privacy tools are needed every day, not only during such moments - to protect yourself from ever-growing online security threats and increasing surveillance".


Michael Copps, former FCC Commissioner and special adviser to pro-democracy group Common Cause, similarly lamented after the bill's signing: "Privacy goes the way of populism as Trump rolls over again for big business". These companies can make money from selling this same information from internet users.

Providers would have been allowed share and sell non-sensitive information - such as names, IP address and anything else not on the sensitive list - under the privacy rules, but customers would have been allowed to opt-out. Emphasizing, however, that the FTC "cannot regulate broadband providers due to a congressionally mandated exception for common carriers", an official at Public Knowledge warned that, "once President Trump signs this resolution, there will be no effective federal cop on the beat to proactively protect consumer information collected by ISPs". "Those flawed privacy rules, which never went into effect, were created to benefit one group of favored companies, not online consumers", Pai wrote.

Per Comcast's statement, the rollback of regulations doesn't mean they'll sell customers' personal information. One is to provide the marketers with "de-identified information" which helps them to determine the customers who fit into the group of advertisers they are trying to reach. Pai and other Republicans want a different federal agency, the Federal Trade Commission, to police privacy for both broadband companies like AT&T and internet companies like Google.

So rather than create a law giving the FTC rulemaking authority or introduce far-reaching privacy legislation that evens the playing field and protects all consumers, Congress chose to gut the FCC rules through a process that provides for no debate, no amendment, and only requires a simple majority to pass through the Senate.

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