In a recent development, President Donald Trump has signed a resolution which essentially reverses protections set in place by the previous administration which forbid internet service providers (ISPs) from selling users' browsing history.
President Trump signed the bill on Monday, which means while many ISPs say they will not sell respect customers privacy and won't flag their browsing history and other personal data, they can now do so under the new rules. Congress' decision to repeal the FCC regulations "had zero effect on the privacy protections afforded to consumers", he wrote.
With a Republican president in the White House, the GOP-controlled Congress has turned to the 20-year-old law to scrap numerous regulations that Republicans say are costly, burdensome or excessive, many of which were finalized in the closing months of Democrat Barack Obama's presidency.
President Trump and Congress have appropriately invalidated one part of the Obama-era plan for regulating the Internet. "Companies may promise to secure or not sell their data, but the only agency with jurisdiction over broadband providers, the FCC, is now prohibited from creating similar rules to protect consumers in the future", Chris Lewis, VP at Public Knowledge, said.
Pai is alluding to the notion that companies like Google and Facebook have the ability to sell people's personal data to advertisers, while the clarity and degree of consent is sometimes dubious. The reason is, most Americans "believe their private information should be just that".
A group of lawmakers plans to introduce a bill Tuesday (April 4) that would require internet service providers to get permission from users before selling personal information such as geographic location, internet history and app usage to marketers. As former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler points out, federal rules have protected the privacy of Americans' phone calls for decades.
The EFF and other supporters of the privacy rules also point out that in many markets consumer choices are limited when it comes to home broadband, so you often can't just switch providers if you don't like their privacy policies.
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Verizon Chief Privacy Officer Karen Zacharia stated directly that Verizon doesn't put its customers' browsing history up for sale.
But Republicans argued that the rules were confusing to consumers and unfair to internet providers.
But Trump signed the bill. Pai has further stated that now FCC would work with Federal Trade Commission, to restore "FTC's authority to police internet service providers' privacy practices".
But social media and internet search websites don't have access to almost as much data as internet service providers.
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.