Society

Senate Votes To Let ISPs Sell User Data Without Consent

| by Ray Brown

The Republican-controlled Senate voted along party lines to allow internet service providers to sell customer data without that person's consent.

The vote was approved entirely along party lines, 50 to 48. But it still needs to be approved by the House of Representatives before going into effect, and Reuters reported that it wasn't clear whether the House will vote on the measure.

That measure, sponsored by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, repeals a rule approved by the Federal Communications Commission in October 2016 under former President Barack Obama that requires internet providers to obtain consent from users before selling those users' data, which includes "precise geolocation, financial information, health information, children's information and web browsing history for advertising and internal marketing," according to Reuters.

Internet service provider behemoths like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon staunchly opposed the rules and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who voted against the the rule in October 2016, criticized them, as well.

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"The FCC should have made sure that its regulatory approach matched the [Federal Trade Commission's] framework," Pai said, according to NPR. "And to the extent that they are dissimilar and created an asymmetry in terms of regulation of companies that are in the same space -- online advertising space -- then that kind of disjunction is something that doesn't ultimately serve consumers well. ... My own core goal is to make sure that that uniform expectation of privacy ... is vindicated through the use of regulatory framework that establishes a level playing field."

But internet privacy advocates said the Senate vote erodes people's right to internet privacy by allowing large corporations a free hand over their personal data.

"ISPs act as gatekeepers to the Internet, giving them incredible access to records of what you do online. They shouldn’t be able to profit off of the information about what you search for, read about, purchase, and more without your consent," wrote Kate Tummarello of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a pro-internet privacy group.

And Democrats, who all voted to keep the rule in place, blasted Republicans who voted to hand over people's personal data to large corporations.

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“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," Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said after the vote, according to Ars Technica.

Sources: Reuters, Ars Technica, NPR, EFF / Photo credit: Michael P. Snody/U.S.Marine Corps via Wikimedia Commons

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