An employee types on a computer keyboard.
The United States Congress has sent President Donald Trump legislation that would kill an online privacy regulation, a move that could allow internet providers to sell the browsing habits of their customers.
The repeal of the FCC-approved rules had President Trump's support, and the latest vote means that all manner of personal information is now able to be sold for marketing and advertising without individuals' consent.
Thursday, the Senate passed the measure by a vote of 50-48.
This joint resolution nullifies the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission entitled "Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services".
The rules bar internet providers from obstructing or slowing down consumer access to web content and prohibit giving or selling access to speedy internet, essentially a "fast lane" on the web's information superhighway, to certain internet services.
A vote to repeal internet privacy rules in the US has led to backlash from critics, who say it will "fundamentally undermine" online security and enable unconstitutional mass government surveillance. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asserted the old rules disadvantaged ISPs in favor of Internet companies like Google and Facebook, which enjoy greater freedom to collect and monetize user data. That's why if you've recently searched for shoes, you'll see a bunch of shoe ads pop up on your browser.
One likely victor will be virtual private network (VPN) providers who have already started to see an increase in the number of people interested in their services as they look for ways to shield their privacy.
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"What the heck are you thinking?"
It would be hard for a new ISP privacy bill to pass in the Republican-controlled Congress, however. The regulations hadn't yet gone into effect, but now they definitely won't. "Just last week, I bought underwear on the internet", he said. That's what the FCC rule aimed to do. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., chair of the House subcommittee that oversees the FCC, said, adding that removing the protections will actually "enhance" citizens' privacy.
"It is the consumer's information", he said ahead of October's vote.
There are two major parts to the rules Congress voted to overturn.
The repeal was strongly backed - with good reason - by providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast.
"They can use your information and sell it to the highest bidder", warned Democratic Representative Anna Eshoo of California. It also allows ISPs to use and share other information, including email addresses and service tier information, unless a customer "opts-out".
Can You Stop Providers from Collecting Your Data? But thatcan be a hard process, and many providers don't readily provide information on how to do so.
Republican lawmakers and the telecom industry have staunchly opposed the regulations. Before the Trump administration, it had been usedjust once before, under former president George W. Bush.