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The U.S. Senate wants to limit the FCC’s ability to regulate ISP data policies

Why it matters to you

Your internet service provider gathers a lot of information. Part of the Senate wants to limit the FCC's ability to determine how that data is used.

In October, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to impose new rules that require internet service providers (ISPs) to gain user consent before sharing certain data with third parties. The rules were set to go into effect at the beginning of March when FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called on the commission to delay some of the rules.

Now, Congress is stepping in to address the rules’ status, with Senate Republicans introducing legislation that would do away with the rules altogether. The Senate’s measure would utilize its authority under the Congressional Review Act and would stop the FCC from implementing similar rules going forward, Ars Technica reports.

More: Broadband providers now need consent to share your data, thanks to the FCC

The resolution’s sponsor, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), said the purpose of the legislation is to “protect consumers from overreaching Internet regulation” and that it “empowers consumers to make informed choices on if and how their data can be shared.”

Furthermore, Flake said the FCC’s rules amount to “midnight regulation” that does not protect consumer privacy. Characterizing the measure’s overall impact, he said, “restrictions have the potential to negatively impact consumers and the future of Internet innovation.”

The FCC rules were to take place at different times. Data security protections intended to cause ISPs to protect their customer’s data were set to begin on March 2. Data breach notification requirements were to begin on June 2. And the requirement for ISPs to gain opt-in consent to share Web browsing history, app usage history, Social Security numbers, and other private information with third parties was to going into effect on December 4.

Senate Democrats oppose the resolution, with Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) saying, “If this [resolution] is passed, neither the FCC nor the FTC will have clear authority when it comes to how internet service providers protect consumers’ data privacy and security. Regardless of politics, allowing ISPs to operate in a rule-free zone without any government oversight is reckless.”

ISP such as Comcast and Verizon will likely support the proposition, given their position that the FCC rules apply restrictions on them that do not apply to other internet companies that also collect data, such as Google and Netflix. We will have to wait to see if the resolution becomes law to know exactly how our private data will be utilized by ISPs.