On March 28, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to kill broadband privacy rules that would have required Internet service providers (ISPs) to get permission from consumers before collecting their sensitive data.
The Broadband Consumer Privacy Rules was approved by a vote of 215-205 that fell largely on party lines, with the Republican majority supporting the motion.
The previous week, the U.S. Senate approved the bill on a similar party-line basis. In April, President Trump signed the bill into law.
The Broadband Consumer Privacy Rules will roll back the legislation passed in October by the Federal Communications Commission that would have given consumers more control over how ISPs can use their sensitive data.
The policy defined sensitive data as any information related to a user’s finances, health, information from children, precise geolocation data, web browsing history, and app usage history. ISPs could still collect information not considered to be sensitive, but they would have had to offer customers the ability to opt out of the collection practices.
Additionally, the Broadband Consumer Privacy Rules would have established new requirements for ISPs to report data breaches that may have harmed consumers or put their information at risk. They would have been required to notify customers of a data breach within 30 days of identifying it.
The protections for user data were scheduled for implementation in December 2017. The stricter rules for data breaches were set to go into effect in March, but the FCC under Trump appointee Ajit Pai chose to place a stay on the rules.
“ISPs are the only ones with full access to everything you do online, every site you visit, every path and choice as you move between sites, and the full array of apps and services you use,” Dane Jasper, the CEO of Bay Area internet service provider Sonic, told International Business Times.
“Service providers are the one entity that knows where all the traffic came from and went to. It’s a disturbing amount of information and gives companies a lot of info about the consumer.”
Michael Capuano, a Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts, blasted the bill on the House floor. “I have a simple question,” the Congressman said, “what the heck are you thinking? What is in your mind? Why would you want to give out any of your personal information to a faceless corporation for the sole purpose of them selling it?”
Nathan White, a senior legislative manager at Access Now, told International Business Times in a statement: “If President Trump was serious about his campaign promises to stand up for the rights of the individual over the powerful special interests in Washington D.C., then he would veto this bill.”
The Internet and Television Association spoke positively of the vote. In a statement, the organization called the FFC rules "misguided" and said the repeal “marks an important step toward restoring consumer privacy protections that apply consistently to all internet companies," arguing ISPs have a "proven record of safeguarding consumer privacy."