Internet users will have less privacy protection if a resolution passed yesterday (23 March) in the US senate is passed into law.
The Senate passed a resolution of disapproval to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s landmark broadband-privacy rules and expose internet users to spying by companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.
The resolution, based on an Newt Gingrich-era law called the Congressional Review Act (CRA), was passed by a simple Senate majority. If it passes the House and is signed by President Trump, the resolution will eliminate rules requiring an internet service provider to obtain opt-in consent from its customers before selling their private data, like their web-browsing histories, or making use of that information for advertising purposes.
The CRA process, used successfully only once before the Trump administration took office this year, may also prevent the FCC from adopting any new consumer-privacy protections that are substantially the same as the disapproved rules.
Free Press Action Fund policy counsel Gaurav Laroia comments: “Senate Republicans just struck a massive blow against everyone who uses the Internet, dismantling rules protecting people’s private information from unauthorised use and abuse by cable and phone companies.
“At their core these rules simply would give people the right to decide for themselves whether to allow their ISPs to share or sell their personal information, including their web-browsing histories.
“Senator Jeff Flake and his colleagues have the audacity to claim it was necessary to overturn the rules to protect people’s online privacy. That’s false. Their comments are rhetoric dressed up to cloak their real intentions: letting Internet service providers profit off private information.”
Personal information is a gold mine for companies on the Internet, says Laroia. “People need the essential FCC protections adopted last year to prevent outright exploitation.
“If this resolution is enacted, ISPs will be able to work with brokers to skirt laws specifically designed to protect your health and financial data to buy and sell information on your online habits. They won’t have to go straight into your medical records, but they’ll track your movements online and know the ailments and medications you’ve researched. Based on that, they can determine whether you have a particular illness or need a prescription to treat it.
“Access to this data can also result in discrimination that circumvents longstanding civil rights protections in housing, employment and consumer credit. In other words, lenders and employers armed with this information could cost many people a good job, good credit or a good place to live.”