U.S. Senate Votes to Overturn Broadband Privacy Rules Passed by Obama Administration

The regulations require internet service providers to take strong measures to protect consumer privacy

U.S. Senate Votes to Overturn Broadband Privacy Rules Passed by Obama Administration
Image: Pixabay
March 23, 2017

In a win for internet service providers (ISPs) and a loss for consumers, the U.S. Senate has voted to overturn broadband privacy regulations passed under the Obama administration.

Fifty Republicans approved the repeal, while 48 Democrats rejected it.

Under the rules, ISPs have to get consumers' approval before they use precise geolocation, financial, health, and children's information, as well as web browsing history, for the purposes of advertising and internal marketing.

ISPs AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon have all expressed strong opposition to the rules.

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, although it is unclear when they will take it up.

According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the regulation "makes the internet an uneven playing field, increases complexity, discourages competition, innovation, and infrastructure investment."

Senator Ed Markey disagreed, saying that "Republicans have just made it easier for American's sensitive information about their health, finances and families to be used, shared, and sold to the highest bidder without their permission."

According to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, consumer privacy will be protected even without the regulation in place.

Democratic FCC members and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a joint statement condemning the vote, saying that it "creates a massive gap in consumer protection law as broadband and cable companies now have no discernible privacy requirements."

Jonathan Schwantes, who serves as senior policy counsel for advocacy organization Consumers Union, said that the Senate's vote "is a huge step in the wrong direction, and it completely ignores the needs and concerns of consumers."