US Senate votes to overturn regulations preventing ISPs selling consumer Web browsing history

In a major overturn of US internet privacy rules, the US Senate used its power to eliminate broadband privacy laws requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to get explicit consent from consumers before selling or sharing their browsing data with advertisers.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations created during the Obama administration, approved on October 27, 2016, prevents ISPs from monitoring and sharing consumer browsing and app activity without their permission.

In a 50-48 vote entirely along party lines, the Senate Republican majority voted Thursday to overturn the privacy rules.

However, legislation still requires House approval – a vote could occur as soon as this week.

If signed into law, the FCC rulemaking “shall have no force or effect” and the FCC would be prevented from making similar regulations in the future.

“President Trump may be outraged by fake violations of his own privacy, but every American should be alarmed by the very real violation of privacy that will result [from] the Republican roll-back of broadband privacy protections,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said after the vote.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the privacy rules “hurt job creators and stifle economic growth.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is “urging people to call their Congress members – Democrat and Republican – to tell them to vote against this bill so that your privacy can be preserved.”

Overruling the FCC regulations “would allow Comcast, Verizon, Charter, AT&T, and other broadband providers to take control away from consumers and relentlessly collect and sell their sensitive information without the consent of that family,” Markey said.

Dallas Harris, a policy fellow for Public Knowledge, a non-profit Washington, D.C.-based public interest group that is involved in intellectual property law, was quoted by Boston Globe Media Partners as saying:

“These were the strongest online privacy rules to date, and this vote is a huge step backwards in consumer protection writ large.

“The rules asked that when things were sensitive, an internet service provider asked permission first before collecting. That’s not a lot to ask.”