How Private Is Your Web History? Not Very, Decides Congress
Repeal of internet privacy rule now headed for Trump's desk
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2017 4:55 AM CDT
The House passed the measure 215-205, with 15 Republicans voting against.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(Newser) – A measure to repeal online privacy rules brought in under former President Barack Obama before they take effect is on its way to President Trump's desk after the House passed it with a 215-205 vote. The measure—which passed the Senate 50-48 last week—blocks the FCC from enforcing a rule it approved in October banning internet service providers from selling and sharing users' data without obtaining their consent. The White House issued a statement Tuesday saying Trump strongly supports the move because websites are not required to obtain the same consent, resulting in "rules that apply very different regulatory regimes based on the identity of the online actor," Reuters reports. A look at the debate:

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans of putting profits before privacy, the AP reports. "Overwhelmingly, the American people do not agree with Republicans that this information should be sold, and it certainly should not be sold without your permission," she said. "Our broadband providers know deeply personal information about us and our families." The AP notes that 15 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the move.

  • The move allows ISPs to sell data such as browsing history and geolocation information. "I have a simple question: What the heck are you thinking?" Democratic Rep. Michael Capuano said during the House debate, per Ars Technica. "What is in your mind? Why would you want to give up any of your personal information to a faceless corporation for the sole purpose of them selling it? Give me one good reason why Comcast should know my mother's medical problems."
  • Online privacy advocates argued that ISPs should face stricter guidelines because unlike website and search engines, they have information on all the websites a user visits, meaning they will be better able to sell highly targeted ads, the Washington Post reports. "Today's vote means that Americans will never be safe online from having their most personal details stealthily scrutinized and sold to the highest bidder," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.
  • Republicans including Trump-appointed FCC chief Ajit Pai argued that a different federal agency, the Federal Trade Commission, should be in charge of regulating privacy for both websites and ISPs. The AP notes that the FTC has long been seen as having a lighter regulatory touch than the FCC. "The internet has become the amazing tool that it is because it is largely left untouched by regulation, and that shouldn't stop now," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.

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