PINDROP BLOG

Senate Bill Seeks to Reinstate Broadband Privacy Rule

Now that President Trump has signed into law legislation that eliminates an FCC rule that prevented broadband providers from selling users’ private information, some members of Congress have introduced a new bill that would restore the rule.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has drafted the bill and introduced it in the Senate in the hopes of reversing the effects of the law that Trump signed last week. That law, which drew criticism and opposition from a diverse set of privacy advocates, technologists, consumer groups, and legislators, gives broadband providers such as Comcast and Verizon the ability to sell users’ browsing histories and other personal information without customers’ consent.

The FCC last year had passed a rule that prevented broadband providers from selling that kind of customer information without clear consent, but opponents said the rule placed unfair restrictions on some companies. Markey’s bill seeks to put the FCC rule back in place.

“Americans should not have to forgo their fundamental right to privacy just because their homes and phones are connected to the internet.”

“Thanks to Congressional Republicans, corporations, not consumers, are in control of sensitive information about Americans’ health, finances, and children. The Republican roll-back of strong broadband privacy rules means ISP no longer stands for Internet Service Provider, it stands for ‘Information Sold for Profit’,” said Markey.  “This legislation will put the rules back on the books to protect consumers from abusive invasions of their privacy. Americans should not have to forgo their fundamental right to privacy just because their homes and phones are connected to the internet.”

The proposed bill would require providers to have users opt-in to allow the provider to sell or grant access to a wide range of personal information, including Social Security numbers, browsing histories, financial data, health information, geolocation data, and call detail information. The legislation, which is co-sponsored by several other Democratic senators, will face a tough battle, given that Republicans control both the House and the Senate. The chairman of the FCC also has been publicly supportive of the legislation Trump signed last week, saying the commission had no business regulating ISP privacy.

“American consumers’ privacy deserves to be protected regardless of who handles their personal information. In order to deliver that consistent and comprehensive protection, the Federal Communications Commission will be working with the Federal Trade Commission to restore the FTC’s authority to police Internet service providers’ privacy practices. We need to put America’s most experienced and expert privacy cop back on the beat. And we need to end the uncertainty and confusion that was created in 2015 when the FCC intruded in this space,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said last week.