Senate Votes to Overturn Internet Privacy Rules

While everyone was (quite understandably) paying attention to the Republican healthcare bill yesterday, the Senate quietly voted to overturn internet privacy rules passed by the FCC during the Obama administration, which prevented internet providers from sharing your browsing history with corporations without your consent.

Jacob Kastrenakes at the Verge reports:
The privacy rules, passed last year by the FCC, required internet providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T to get each customer's permission before sharing personal information like which websites they visit. But internet providers want to be able to sell that data and use it to target ads, so they've been vocal about opposing the rules since around the time [Donald] Trump took office.

This vote uses the Congressional Review Act, which lets Congress strike down recently passed rules by federal agencies, to block the FCC's action. It now heads to the House, where it'll need another vote before the rules are wiped out.

"This resolution is a direct attack on consumer rights, on privacy, on rules that afford basic protection against intrusive and illegal interference with consumers' use of social media sites and websites that often they talk for granted," Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in the Senate today ahead of the vote.

What makes this reversal particularly damaging is that it won't just undo these privacy rules, but it'll prevent the FCC from passing similar privacy rules in the future. That means that the FCC won't be able to pass strict privacy rules again, even if opinions change in Congress.
Emphasis mine.

The potential for abuse is almost unlimited. Think about the things that people search online, which would be made available to for-profit corporations under the auspices of "targeted advertising." Think about the way that information could be misinterpreted. If my friend is diagnosed with an illness I don't know much about, and I research it online, will that search be reflexively presumed to be an indication of my own health?

This erosion of privacy is so, so chilling.

It hasn't been implemented yet. There is still time to call your rep's office and tell them to vote no on rolling back FCC privacy rules on browsing histories. If you've got a Republican rep, appeal to their espoused commitment to privacy rights.

Even if it won't change their vote, at least voice your opposition and let them know what hypocrites they are. Let them know we see them.

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