Last fall, the Federal Communications Commission approved new privacy rules governing ISPs in a 3-2 party-line vote. Then-FCC Chairman Wheeler stressed
It is the consumer’s information. It is not the information of the network the consumer hires to deliver that information. The consumer has the right to make a decision about how her or his information is used.
Yesterday the House of Representatives voted 215-205 to overturn the FCC regulations (with 15 Republicans voting against), following a party-line vote in the Senate last week.
Democrats, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, argued that Republicans were, in essence, selling their constituents browsing history to the highest bidder.
One of the moss impassioned responses to the Republican initiative came from Massachusetts Democrat who pointedly asked, ‘What the heck are you thinking.”
The White House has indicated it would sign the legislation repealing the FCC rules in a statement released following the vote.
The Administration strongly supports House passage of S.J.Res. 34, which would nullify the Federal Communications Commission’s final rule titled “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunication Services,” 81 Fed. Reg. 87274 (December 2, 2016). The rule applies the privacy requirements of the Communications Act of 1934 to broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other telecommunications carriers. In particular, the rule requires ISPs to obtain affirmative “opt-in” consent from consumers to use and share certain information, including app usage and web browsing history. It also allows ISPs to use and share other information, including e-mail addresses and service tier information, unless a customer “opts-out.” In doing so, the rule departs from the technology-neutral framework for online privacy administered by the Federal Trade Commission. This results in rules that apply very different regulatory regimes based on the identity of the online actor.