Internet Privacy Regulations Voted Down in the Senate


Ajit Pai

Internet privacy regulations on carriers have been voted down by the Senate in a 50-48 party line vote. The Hill reported that it dismantles the internet privacy rules of the Federal Communications Commission. Providers can now take your browsing history and sell it to advertisers without your permission according to supporters of the provision.

Net Neutrality will be dismantled as a whole but this particular regulation was time-sensitive.

While critics want the regulations in place, this will get the growing FCC out of the business of dictating to businesses. There are already rules in place governing this, according to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. It gave other entities like Facebook and Google, not subjected to these regulations, an unfair advantage, according to critics of the regulations.

Republicans behind the bill viewed it as deregulating, not allowing the FCC to dictate.

Ajit Pai and other GOP FCC commissioners are behind the bill.

Republican commissioners, including Pai, said in October that the rules would unfairly give websites like Facebook, Twitter Inc or Google the ability to harvest more data than internet service providers and thus dominate digital advertising.

Democrats are unhappy. “President Trump may be outraged by fake violations of his own privacy, but every American should be alarmed by the very real violation of privacy that will result of the Republican roll-back of broadband privacy protections,” Senator Markey said in a statement after the vote.

“With today’s vote, Senate Republicans have just made it easier for American’s sensitive information about their health, finances and families to be used, shared, and sold to the highest bidder without their permission,” he continued.

Pai said there were already privacy regulations in place that would address this question. The Republican commissioner hopes to dismantle Net Neutrality rules which gave immense power to the FCC. This rule was delayed but was set to go into effect and he had to address this one first. It’s only the beginning of the end of Net Neutrality.

The internet service providers are cheering. It now goes to the House and then to Trump. It might not pass the House.

Telecom and cable companies argue that the new FCC privacy rules put them on an unequal footing with other Internet companies that collect data on users, like Google and Netflix, which are only overseen by the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC’s privacy guidelines are less stringent than the ones passed by the FCC and they are implemented through investigations and enforcement, rather than pre-emptive regulations.

When the Democratic majority passed the FCC privacy rules, Republican commissioners — including now-Chairman Pai — called them corporate favoritism. This sentiment was echoed in the statement the FCC issued mid-February:

“Chairman Pai believes that the best way to protect the online privacy of American consumers is through a comprehensive and uniform regulatory framework. All actors in the online space should be subject to the same rules, and the federal government shouldn’t favor one set of companies over another. Therefore, he has advocated returning to a technology-neutral privacy framework for the online world and harmonizing the FCC’s privacy rules for broadband providers with the FTC’s standards for others in the digital economy. Unfortunately, one of the previous administration’s privacy rules that is scheduled to take effect on March 2 is not consistent with the FTC’s privacy standards.”

Consumer advocacy groups have argued that the ISPs have a broader capacity to collect data on people than websites and digital services since they connect the websites.

The fewer rules and less government, the better. However, the privacy argument is an important one. If we are going to address it, can it be addressed across the board without one arm of private business chosen by government as the winner?

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