U.S. Senate to Vote on Repealing FCC’s Broadband Privacy Regulations

March 22, 2017, 10:15 PM UTC
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Ajit Pai testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Privacy, Technology and the Law Subcommittee hearing on "Examining the Proposed FCC Privacy Rules" on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on May 11, 2016. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday is taking up a measure to repeal regulations adopted by the Obama administration requiring internet service providers to do more to protect customers’ privacy than websites like Alphabet’s Google or Facebook.

The Senate will begin debate under a provision that allows Congress to repeal recently approved federal regulations, said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Under the rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission in October under then-President Barack Obama, internet providers would need to obtain consumer consent before using precise geolocation, financial information, health information, children’s information and web browsing history for advertising and internal marketing.

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Earlier this month, the FCC temporarily blocked the Obama data security rules from taking effect, a victory for internet providers such as AT&T (T) Comcast (CMCSA) and Verizon (VZ) that had strongly opposed the measure.

A final vote on the measure could come on Thursday, but it was not clear when the U.S. House of Representatives might take up the measure.

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the proposal to undo the rules.

“With this move, Congress is essentially allowing companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon to sell consumers’ private information to the highest bidder,” ACLU general counsel Neema Singh Guliani said earlier this month.

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, nominated by Republican President Donald Trump to serve a second five-year term on the commission, said earlier this month that consumers would have privacy protections even without the Obama administration internet provider rules.

Republican commissioners, including Pai, said in October that the rules would unfairly give websites like Facebook, Twitter (TWTR) or Google the ability to harvest more data than internet service providers and thus dominate digital advertising.

Democratic Senator Edward Markey said “just as phone companies cannot sell information about Americans’ phone calls, an internet service provider should not be allowed to sell sensitive consumer information without affirmative consent.”

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