Internet privacy rules removed by Congress
The House of Representatives voted 215 to 205 in favor of eliminating restrictions of internet service providers (ISP) and their ability to sell their customer’s information on Tuesday. The protections were planned to be enacted by the end of 2017 and would have forced ISPs to get permission from their customers before selling their internet browsing and app habits to advertisers.
The vote was largely bipartisan, with those in favor being exclusively Republican. However, several Republican lawmakers crossed over to vote against eliminating the privacy measures. Last Thursday, a Senate vote set the stage for the House of Representatives to send the bill to President Donald Trump’s desk after they voted exclusively on party lines against the measures.
The planned protections were proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and would have prevented ISPs and broadband providers from selling information, including where customers bank, shop, browse, their political views and even sexual orientation.
Those in favor of eliminating the protection measures have claimed that preventing ISPs from requiring consumer consent for customer information will eliminate competition among providers.
Supporters of the FCC regulations believe the repeal will only benefit broadband providers.
“Instead of making the industry more competitive, what this bill wants to do is give these four or five ISPs even more power,” Representative Ro Khanna (D-California) told The Guardian.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting privacy on the internet, released a statement saying “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.”
For internet users who want to protect their privacy from ISPs, the options are slim going forward. Some may choose to utilize a virtual private network (VPN), a frequently paid service that routes all internet traffic through one server not directly connected to the user. However, many sites like Netflix try to ban VPN users from utilizing their services.
Others may move over to using Tor, a more complex server that could leave users open to malicious servers.
Repealing the FCC’s regulations is not a done deal, yet. President Trump has yet to sign off on SJ Res 34, leaving opponents room for a Hail Mary. The EFF’s Jeremy Gillula told the Guardian, “I think we’d try to convince President Trump that signing a bill that helps big corporate interests by eliminating Americans’ privacy and weakening their cybersecurity isn’t exactly ‘draining the swamp.’”