House Vote Ensures Rollback of Internet Privacy Rules

Orhan Cam/

Critics say the move will undermine consumers' privacy and cybersecurity; supporters say it removes damaging regulations.

House lawmakers voted Tuesday to remove restrictions that prevent internet service providers from selling customers’ personal browsing information to advertisers, virtually guaranteeing repeal of the protections.

The vote would roll back Obama-era Federal Communications Commission rules that prevent internet service providers from selling customer information to advertisers as web giants such as Google and Facebook do.

The congressional move will also roll back cyber protections FCC required ISPs to place on customer data.

The House passed the joint resolution 215 to 205.

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The Senate passed the same resolution last week, which means it now heads to President Donald Trump who is expected to sign it. Congressional supporters have described the move as part of Trump’s broader agenda to roll back regulations.

Industry and most Republicans support repealing the rules, which they consider “agency overreach” because they impose greater burdens on ISPs than are imposed on web companies, over which FCC does not have jurisdiction.

They’d prefer internet privacy rules were fully controlled by the Federal Trade Commission, which does not have authority to require similar rules under current law.

The tech industry association ITI called the FCC rules “unnecessary, overly broad and prescriptive,” in a news release.

Privacy and digital rights groups, along with most Democrats, say removing the rules will damage consumers’ online privacy and make data breaches more likely.

The message of the repeal, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., said, is that “your privacy doesn’t matter and your web browsing history should be available to whoever will pay the highest price for it.”

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., called repeal of the rules “a gift” to Russian hackers such as those who breached Yahoo’s email system in 2014.

The digital advocacy group Fight for the Future has pledged to publicize the names of lawmakers who voted to repeal the rules by posting them on billboards.