Senate quashes an Obama-era regulation to protect your privacy online

Internet providers could sell users' personal browsing information without gaining consent if bill signed into law

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 23, 2017 7:16PM (EDT)

      (<a href=''>LoloStock</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(LoloStock via Shutterstock)

Less than a month after WikiLeaks revealed that the CIA can hack common household technology to spy on people, the Republican-controlled Senate has overturned an Obama-era regulation that protected Americans from privacy invasions by private companies. The House, however, has not yet taken up the measure.

In a party-line vote, 50 Republican senators voted to overturn a Federal Communications Commission regulation approved in October (which has not yet taken effect) that required internet providers to receive consent from consumers before using their personal information for advertising and internal marketing, according to Reuters. Forty-eight Democratic Senators voted against repealing the regulation while two Republican senators were absent.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Obama-era regulation "makes the internet an uneven playing field, increases complexity, discourages competition, innovation and infrastructure investment."

Similarly, a trade group known as the Internet and Television Association said that overturning the regulation was a "critical step towards re-establishing a balanced framework that is grounded in the long-standing and successful FTC privacy framework that applies equally to all parties operating online."

By contrast, Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass., said that that ditching the regulation "just made it easier for American’s sensitive information about their health, finances and families to be used, shared, and sold to the highest bidder without their permission." Democratic members of the Federal Trade Commission joined their colleagues in the FCC to decry the repeal for creating "a massive gap in consumer protection law as broadband and cable companies now have no discernible privacy requirements."

The legislation is to be next considered by the House of Representatives, which is expected to vote in favor of it, before being presumably signed into law by President Donald Trump.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Fcc Internet Privacy