The U.S. Senate voted Thursday to undo privacy rules established late last year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) FCC with the goal of protecting user data. In a 50-to-48 vote, the Senate passed a resolution to no longer require internet service providers (ISPs) to obtain consumer consent before selling or sharing private data with advertisers. This data includes browsing history, location information, and other details that could be used for targeted advertising. However, before the FCC reversal could go into effect, it must also pass through the House and obtain President Trump's signature.
In addition to reversing the previous privacy rules passed by the FCC, the Senate vote could also set a precedent by limiting the agency's rulemaking powers in the future. The Senate used its power authorized by the Congressional Review Act to overturn privacy rules set by the FCC in October 2016. In defense of the new Senate vote, new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai argued that consumers should not have to navigate different privacy rules that are set up for online companies and ISPs. Republicans in support of the bill said that privacy rules would hurt job creation and hinder economic growth, even though the FCC's earlier ruling did not prevent ISPs from monetizing customer data. Opponents argued that the FCC ruling required consumer consent and did not prevent ISPs from monetizing browsing data. Following the Senate vote, lobbying groups for ISPs, telecoms, and the cable industry came out in support of the decision to reverse the FCC rules.
Some Democrats and other opponents of the bill are now protesting by claiming ISP means "information sold for profit," Ars Technica reports. Your home ISP may know and share more about you by knowing your internet habits, Senator Bill Nelson argued. Internet providers like AT&T, Comcast, Charter, and Verizon, for example, can know when you wake up by seeing when you log in to check the news or weather in the morning, and could also know about your health based on your online search history of symptoms. Republicans argued that regulations over privacy should be made under the domain of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and not the FCC. However, allowing the FTC to set privacy rules for ISPs would require additional legislation from Congress, as the FTC cannot regulate common carriers like phone companies.