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.

Emerging Tech

Twitter is officially a teenager now. Are we raising a monster?

On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey sent the first ever tweet. Thirteen years later, Twitter has fundamentally changed the way we communicate. Here are some of the myriad ways it's done that.

5G's arrival is transforming tech. Here's everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.

Browse safely and securely with Opera’s unlimited VPN on Android

Opera has added a new VPN to its Android browser, offering an easy way to keep your privacy and data locked up solid, and with no limits on usage or cost, you can keep it on all the time.

Google Fi: Phones, plans, pricing, perks, and more explained

Google's wireless service, formerly Project Fi, now goes by the name of Google Fi, and it's now compatible with a majority of Android phones, as well as iPhones. Here's everything you need to know about Google Fi.

Confused about RSS? Don't be. Here's what it is and how to use it

What is an RSS feed, anyway? This traditional method of following online news is still plenty useful. Let's take a look at what RSS means, and what advantages it has in today's busy world.

Don’t be fooled! Study exposes most popular phishing email subject lines

Phishing emails are on the rise and a new study out by the cybersecurity company Barracuda has exposed some of the most common phishing email subject lines used to exploit businesses. 

How much!? British Airways glitch results in $4.2M quote for family vacation

Website errors sometimes cause flight prices to display at way below the correct price. But British Airways recently experienced the opposite issue when it tried to charge a family more than $4 million for a vacation in Mexico.

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.

Delete tracking cookies from your system by following these quick steps

Cookies are useful when it comes to saving your login credentials and other data, but they can also be used by advertisers to track your browsing habits across multiple sites. Here's how to clear cookies in the major browsers.

You can now listen to Google Podcasts on your desktop without the app

The Google Podcasts app is no longer entirely necessary to listen to the podcasts it offers. With a simple tweak of the sharing URL, you can listen to a Google Podcasts podcast on your desktop or laptop without the app.
Social Media

A Facebook, Instagram bug exposed millions of passwords to its employees

Facebook, Facebook Lite, and Instagram passwords weren't properly encrypted and could be viewed by employees, the company said Thursday. The network estimates millions of users were affected.

Get ready to say goodbye to some IFTTT support in Gmail by March 31

If This Then That, the popular automation service, will drop some of its support for Gmail by March 31. The decision comes as a response to security concerns and is aimed to protect user data.

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.

Drunk shoppers spend $48B per year while intoxicated, mostly on Amazon

Drunk shoppers spend more than $400 per year, according to the results of a survey carried out by The Hustle. The drunk shopping industry is apparently worth $48 billion, and Amazon is turning out to be the biggest beneficiary.