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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


Matthew Rozsa
March 23, 2017 11:16PM (UTC)

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.

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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.


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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