House of Representatives Just Reversed Your Internet Privacy Rights

WASHINGTON — Internet service providers will be able to store your browsing history and sell that data to advertisers and others under a bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday.

The House bill, passed 215-205, gives the Trump administration power to block Obama-era Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules that were written, in part, to prevent companies from tracking and selling browsing history. The bill already passed the Senate.

President Trump intends to sign the bill, which is known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA) and is designed to keep the Obama-era rules from taking effect, The Guardian reported. Blocking the rules will allow companies like Verizon to sell advertising (based off of consumers’ browsing history) in competition with Google and Facebook.

The FCC, during the Obama administration, had introduced a set of rules, the Broadband Consumer Privacy Proposal, which would have required broadband providers to get permission from customers before tracking them and selling the data.

“Give me one good reason why Comcast should know what my mother’s medical problems are,” said U.S. Representative Michael Capuano, a Democrat. “Just last week I bought underwear on the Internet. Why should you know what size I take? Or the color?”

Evan Greer of the non-profit group Fight for the Future said the new law will kill privacy.

“Gutting these privacy rules won’t just allow internet service providers to spy on us and sell our personal information. It will also enable more unconstitutional mass government surveillance, and fundamentally undermine our cybersecurity by making our sensitive personal information vulnerable to hackers, identity thieves, and foreign governments,” Greer said.

Said Carmen Scurato of the National Hispanic Media Coalition:

“With the approval of the president, corporations will now be handed the ability to share the sensitive, personal information of millions of Americans without their consent and hinder the FCC’s role as a consumer watchdog far into the future.”

Supporters of the bill argued that the Obama regulations were an overreach and that oversight of the Internet should fall under the FTC, not the FCC.

AT&T, which owns DirecTV, was trying to sell such targeted advertising before the Obama-era FCC rules were proposed, The Guardian reported.

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