US Congress votes to abolish rules to stop Internet service providers from selling consumers' personal data without their knowledge or consent

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Article
29 March 2017

Republicans Attack Internet Privacy

Author: [editorial] New York Times

Republicans just made clear how little they care about protecting the privacy of Americans by letting companies like Verizon and Comcast sell advertisers the internet browsing histories and other personal data of their customers without getting permission... Following a party-line vote in the Senate last week, the House approved a resolution on Tuesday that would overturn a broadband privacy regulation the Federal Communications Commission adopted in October. That rule requires cable and phone companies to obtain consent before using information like which websites people visited to show them customized ads and to build detailed profiles on them. The White House said on Tuesday that President Trump would sign the legislation, which would also prohibit the F.C.C. from adopting a similar policy in the future.  Most Americans spend much of their lives online. They should be able to do so without fear that their internet service providers are logging their activities and selling the data. [also refers to Google, Facebook]

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Article
28 March 2017

Repealing Broadband Privacy Rules, Congress Sides with the Cable and Telephone Industry

Author: Ernesto Falcon, Electronic Frontier Foundation (USA)

Putting the interests of Internet providers over Internet users, Congress today voted to erase landmark broadband privacy protections. If the bill is signed into law, companies like Cox, Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, and Verizon will have free rein to hijack your searches, sell your data, and hammer you with unwanted advertisements... [A] slim majority of the House of Representatives have decided to give our personal information to an already highly profitable cable and telephone industry so that they can increase their profits with our data... Should President Donald Trump sign S.J. Res. 34 into law, big Internet providers will be given new powers to harvest your personal information in extraordinarily creepy ways. They will watch your every action online and create highly personalized and sensitive profiles for the highest bidder. All without your consent. This breaks with the decades long legal tradition that your communications provider is never allowed to monetize your personal information without asking for your permission first. 

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Article
28 March 2017

The House just voted to wipe away the FCC’s landmark Internet privacy protections

Author: Brian Fung, The Switch blog, on Washington Post (USA)

Congress sent proposed legislation to President Trump on Tuesday that wipes away landmark online privacy protections, the first salvo in what is likely to become a significant reworking of the rules governing Internet access in an era of Republican dominance. In a party-line vote, House Republicans freed Internet service providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast of protections approved just last year that had sought to limit what companies could do with information such as customer browsing habits, app usage history, location data and Social Security numbers... If Trump signs the legislation as expected, providers will be able to monitor their customers’ behavior online and, without their permission, use their personal and financial information to sell highly targeted ads... The providers could also sell their users’ information directly to marketers, financial firms and other companies that mine personal data — all of whom could use the data without consumers’ consent...

Advocates for tough privacy protections online called Tuesday’s vote “a tremendous setback for America.” “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... 

Supporters of Tuesday’s repeal vote argued that the privacy regulations stifle innovation by forcing Internet providers to abide by unreasonably strict guidelines.

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Article
28 March 2017

USA: Congress allows internet companies to sell consumers’ browsing history & personal data without their knowledge or consent

Author: Dana Liebelson, Huffington Post (USA)

"House Republicans Vote To Let Your Internet Service Provider Share Your Web History"

House Republicans jammed through a measure on Tuesday overturning the Obama administration’s rules that would have banned telecom and cable companies from sharing customers’ personal information, including web browsing history, without their consent. The House resolution passed 215-205, mostly on party lines. Its companion passed the Senate last week on a 50-48 vote. If President Donald Trump signs the measure into law, internet service providers will win a regulatory victory. But advocates say consumers can kiss network privacy goodbye. “ISPs will be able to sell your personal information to the highest bidder ... and they won’t have any real obligation to keep your personal information secure, either,” Gigi Sohn, who previously served as counselor to former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, said Monday...Internet service providers say it’s not fair they have to be subject to regulations that tech giants like Facebook and Google, which the Federal Trade Commission oversees, don’t have to follow...Advocates, as well as Democrats, say that it doesn’t make sense to regulate an ISP, which has access to everything a person does online, like Google, which only sees some of a person’s internet traffic...House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday asked ISPs to weigh in on the measure. “This is about profit,” she told her House colleagues in the House. “From America’s most intimate, personal information.”...The change could also expose your Social Security number and information pertaining to your children and health.

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Article
26 March 2017

Push for Internet Privacy Rules Moves to Statehouses

Author: Conor Dougherty, New York Times (USA)

Now that Republicans are in charge, the federal government is poised to roll back regulations limiting access to consumers’ online data. States have other ideas. As on climate changeimmigration and a host of other issues, some state legislatures may prove to be a counterweight to Washington by enacting new regulations to increase consumers’ privacy rights. Illinois legislators are considering a “right to know” bill that would let consumers find out what information about them is collected by companies like Google and Facebook, and what kinds of businesses they share it with. Such a right, which European consumers already have, has been a longtime goal of privacy advocates...

Should [this and other proposals] be passed into law, these rules could end up guiding the rights of consumers far beyond Illinois — because they would provide a model for other states, and because it would be difficult for technology companies with hundreds of millions of users to create a patchwork of state- and country-specific features to localize their effects... California and Connecticut, for instance, recently updated laws that restrict government access to online communications like email, and New Mexico could follow soon. Last year, Nebraska and West Virginia passed laws that limit how companies can monitor employees’ social media accounts... “More and more, states have taken the position that, if Congress is not willing or able to enact strong privacy laws, their legislatures will no longer sit on their hands,” said Chad Marlow, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union.

[refers to lobbying against Illinois bill by Microsoft, Apple, Lyft and Amazon]

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Article
24 March 2017

The Senate Just Sold Out Your Privacy Online to Corporations Like Comcast

Author: Neema Singh Guliani & Nathaniel Turner, ACLU

Should companies like Comcast be able to sell your internet browsing history without your permission?  Most Americans would say “no,” yet the Senate voted to allow just that. A resolution, passed by a thin margin of 50-48 in the Senate, could overturn rules developed by the Federal Communications Commission last year, which required most internet service providers (ISPs) to get your consent before using and selling your web browsing history...The FCC rules are necessary to ensure that large companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon don’t put their profits above our right to choose how our online information is used and shared...Companies would be able to sell your sensitive data to advertisers, big data brokers, and even the government...These third parties could be advertising firms and big data brokers, both of which have a troubling history of discrimination...Even more disturbing, the government could also purchase this data for law enforcement...A huge gap would be created in consumer protection online...

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