Democrats are currently urging President Trump to veto a resolution that would strip all Americans of their online privacy rights with the stroke of a pen. If the resolution passes, broadband providers will be able to collect and sell their customers’ browsing without those users even knowing it.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer recently sent Trump a letter asking him to tell Americans “whose side he’s really on” in this debate. 46 other Democrats signed Schumer’s letter in the Senate.
The Resolution Could Mean the Death of Online Privacy in America
The said resolution, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed Tuesday, is designed to undo a recent regulation from the Federal Communications Commission which gives consumers more control over their online data. The restrictions barred Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast from sharing information on their customers’ online habits with third-parties.
Critics said the restrictions hampers innovation and makes Verizon and the like less competitive when facing Google and Facebook, two tech giants that don’t have to comply with the FCC rule.
Congress voted to approve the resolution which is on its way to the president’s desk.
If President Trump clicks his pen and signs this resolution, consumers will be stripped of critical privacy protections in a New York minute,
Schumer wrote in the letter.
He also voiced concerns that the data on every American’s laptop, iPad, and even smartphone would be used by ISPs to sell and “make a fast buck.”
FCC’s Head Poised to Undo the Regulations
The chair of the FCC, Ajit Pai, pledged to roll the internet privacy rules back. Pai and his fellow GOP members want to transfer the FCC’s Internet privacy authority to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC, in Pai’s vision, is the fittest agency to police both internet companies such as Google and Facebook and broadband providers such as Verizon and AT&T. Google and Facebook have been making billions of dollars from selling their users’ private data to advertisers without asking their permission.
The White House said that Trump is expected to sign the new legislation.
Under the new rules, in theory, any user could buy from an ISP the web browsing history of any other user. But in reality, this is tough to do as most ISPs have their privacy policies which they must follow.
If broadband providers violate their privacy rules, state AGs could sue them. A state AG could also sue these companies if they consider their business practices are “unfair” to other firms. The FCC can file lawsuits against ISPs, as well, under what’s left of the Internet privacy rules. The agency, however, will not be able to issue rules similar to those Congress is currently seeking to undo.
In the meantime, if ISPs tweak their privacy rules or the state AGs and the FCC refuse to sue them, the companies could sell a person’s browsing history and app data in a way that makes that user is identifiable. Last spring, the FCC slapped Verizon with a $1.35 million fine for using supercookies to track their users online. Following the scandal, the telecom giant was forced to ask permission before sharing tracking information.
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