US senate votes to allow ISPs to sell consumer data

24/03/2017

The US senate took the first step Thursday toward blocking rules that would restrict how some big tech companies share and sell personal data, a controversial move that has large implications for online privacy.

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By a vote of 50-48, the Senate passed a joint resolution that would bar the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from enforcing rules it approved last that sought to ban internet service providers (ISPs) from selling user data without consent.

The measure will still have to pass the House and be signed by President Donald Trump before it can become law. In the meantime, the FCC rules that the measure would overturn aren't scheduled to go into effect until December.

If it becomes law, the measure will mean that ISPs are treated differently from web companies like Google and Facebook, which are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.

The vote has been attacked by Democratic commissioners at both the FCC and FTC.

Mignon Clyburn and Terrell McSweeney said in a joint statement: "This legislation creates a massive gap in consumer protection law as broadband and cable companies now have no discernible privacy requirements. This is the antithesis of putting consumers first."

Over the past few years AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast have all tried to track users across the web and collect certain data about their browsing usage without permission.

This data could have then be either exploited by the internet providers themselves or sold to other data brokers and advertising companies.

According to Fight For The Future’s (FFTF) “Save Broadband Privacy” website, Congress had 60 days to decide whether the FCC’s privacy rules would go into effect via the Congressional Review Act.

In an FFTF article published right after the vote, the group said that the elimination of the FCC's privacy rules will allow ISPs to:

  • Monitor and sell all users location data, search history, app usage, and browsing habits to advertisers without permission

  • Overtake search results, redirecting users to traffic to paying third parties

  • Insert ads into web pages that would otherwise not have them

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