Congress has voted to undo an internet privacy regulation even before it went into effect. The regulation was introduced last year by the Federal Communications Commission last year. As per the regulations, consumers would have been handed more power over their privacy. Their internet service providers would have had to seek permission from consumers before they could collect or share personal data of any consumer. In addition they would have had to keep consumers apprised of the types of data they were collecting and sharing. This regulation was approved at the tail end of former President Barack Obama’s presidency. The FCC at that time had 5 members; three Democrats and two Republicans. The chairman of FCC Tom Wheeler said that the rules are necessary to protect internet users.
The ISPs keep track of customer data that they collect from search and browsing histories, geo location and even email content. They then share this data with advertisers and other interested parties so that the consumers would see adverts tailor-made for them. This is nothing new and ISPs never have had to request permission from or share information with consumers regarding these activities. This internet privacy regulation would have turned the status quo on its head.
The Senate used the Congressional Review act to nip the rule in the bud. According to this act Congress can overturn any new federal regulations by gaining a simple majority in favor of the repeal instead of the three-fifths vote which is the norm. In this particular vote, 50 republicans voted for the repeal while 48 democrats voted against it. The resolution to repeal will now be sent to the House and if it is passed there then it will be signed by the President. But since the House also has a Republican majority, the repeal will probably be passed without much trouble.
The resolution to repeal was introduced by Republican Jeff Flake who has criticized the bill as unnecessary and as a regulation that stifles innovation. Democrats who voted against the repeal resolution argued that striking down the law means that consumer’s personal data has basically being handed over to the highest bidder.
“The American people do not want their sensitive information collected, used and sold by any third party, whether that is your broadband provider or a hacker,” Sen. Edward Markey said in a speech on the floor of the Senate hours before the vote.