Congress votes to repeal the FCC’s privacy rules for internet service providers

house republicans want to abolish ev phev tax credit 15337958  u s capital building in washington d c
mj007 / 123RF Stock Photo
On Tuesday, the United States House of Representatives voted to repeal privacy rules created by the Federal Communications Commission. The independent government agency introduced its new privacy ruleset in October of 2016 for regulating an internet service provider’s use and sale of subscriber data. The decision by the House follows one made by the Senate last week, which narrowly voted to repeal the privacy rules. Now the final decision to terminate the FCC’s proposed rules is in the hands of President Donald Trump.

Up until February of 2015, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), another independent government agency, handled all privacy concerns for Americans subscribing to home and mobile broadband services. But in February of 2015, the FCC classified Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as common communication services. This move stripped the FTC of its ability to provide privacy protections regarding ISPs and their internet service subscribers.

It wasn’t until October of 2016 that the FCC introduced a new privacy ruleset called “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services.” These rules dictated that ISPs were required to provide opt-in/opt-out options regarding the use of personal subscriber data by third-party companies. This essentially prevented ISPs from making quick cash selling the mountains of sensitive data they collect, such as a user’s current health symptoms, their peak activities, and so on. The rules also required ISPs to provide data breach notifications, transparency, and more.

Now, both the House and the Senate have voted to use the Congressional Review Act of 1996 to repeal the federal regulation. According to the FTC, the rules established by the FCC were not in effect, leaving a privacy protection “hole” since the decision to reclassify ISPs in February of 2015. However, the FTC has continued to offer internet-based protection policies such as CAN-SPAM, COPPA, and more.

The Trump Administration stated on Tuesday that it supports shutting down the Commission’s rule titled “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunication Services.” The White House explicitly explained why the FCC ruleset is shutting down. “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.”

That all said, the issue regarding a “consumer protection gap” isn’t a problem stemming from the recent votes in Congress, but emerged once ISPs became common telecommunication companies in early 2015. Thus, according to the FTC, it’s an FCC-created issue and must be resolved by the FCC and/or Congress.

“Acting FTC Chairman Ohlhausen stands ready to assist both the FCC and Congress based on the FTC’s longstanding expertise in protecting consumer privacy and data security,” the agency told Digital Trends.

The joint resolution voting against the ruleset submitted by the FCC is labeled by Congress as S.J.Res.34. When submitted to President Trump, his advisers will likely recommend that he sign the bill into law.

Updated on 03/30/17 by Kevin Parrish to reflect information provided by the Federal Trade Commission.

Smart Home

Can new laws protect you from smart home security breaches?

To help combat smart home data breaches, state and federal lawmakers are exploring ways to protect consumers. California, Oregon, and members of the U.S. Senate all have proposals to protect people's data.

These awesome free-to-play games might be even better than the ones you paid for

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially popular League of Legends.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (April 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

Banish the buffer screen with these tips for silky smooth streaming video

If you’ve been having troubles with streaming Internet videos from Netflix and other services in HD, the problem may be your network. Here’s how to make sure your streaming video experience goes smoothly.
Social Media

How to protect yourself from GoFundMe scams before donating

Can you spot a GoFundMe scam? While the fundraising platform says scams make up less than a tenth of one percent of campaigns, some do try to take advantages of others' charity -- like a case last year that made national news.

House votes to restore net neutrality rules, but effort faces long odds

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved the Save the Internet Act, a measure intended to restore net neutrality rules that were repealed in 2017 by the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC and White House want to bring high-speed internet to rural areas

The FCC and the White House unveiled new initiatives to bring high-speed internet to rural areas, including $20.4 billion in incentives to companies to build infrastructure. The FCC also announced ways to speed up the rollout of 5G.

Search all of Craigslist at once with these great tools on web and mobile

Not finding what you need in your local area? Craigslist can be great for finding goods and services from further afield too. All you need do is learn these tips for how to search all of Craigslist at once.

Internet Explorer zero-day exploit makes files vulnerable to hacks on Windows PCs

Evidence of an Internet Explorer zero-day exploit capable of letting hackers steal files from Windows PCs was published online by a security researcher who also claims Microsoft knew of the vulnerability and opted not to patch it.

Buying airline tickets too early is no longer a costly mistake, study suggests

When you book can play a big role in the cost of airline tickets -- so when is the best time to book flights? Earlier than you'd think, a new study suggests. Data from CheapAir.com suggests the window of time to buy at the best prices is…

Report says 20% of all 2018 web traffic came from bad bots

Distil Networks published its annual Bad Bot Report this week and announced that 20% of all web traffic in 2018 came from bad bots. The report had other similarly surprising findings regarding the state of bots as well.

Google Chrome will get a Reader Mode for distraction-free desktop browsing

If Google's testing of Reader Mode on the Chrome Canary desktop browser is successful, soon all Chrome users will gain access to this feature. Reader Mode strips away irrelevant content on a webpage for distraction-free browsing.

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.

Want to make calls across the internet for less? Try these great VOIP services

Voice over IP services are getting more and more popular, but there are still a few that stand above the pack. In this guide, we'll give you a few options for the best VOIP services for home and business users.