US Senate votes to overturn online privacy laws

March 26, 2017 2:29 pm

The Senate side of the Capitol building in Washington DC (file photo)

The Senate has quietly
voted to overturn Obama-era laws aimed at protecting online privacy and
preventing providers from selling user data without consent.

The
Republican-led chamber voted 50 to 48 to reverse the privacy
rules passed under the US Freedom Act in a quiet session on Thursday.
The measure is expected to be passed by the House of Representatives,
which also has a Republican majority, before being signed by President
Donald Trump.
Under the rules set by the Federal Communications
Commission (FFC) last October, service providers were required to ask
for customers’ permission to collect their personal information.
Republicans
claim the FCC’s rules confuse customers because they only cover
Internet providers and not companies like Google and Facebook.
Earlier
this month, two dozen Republican senators filed a joint resolution to
cancel the new privacy rules imposed on Internet service providers and
to prevent the FCC from taking similar action in the future.

The Federal Communications Commission (FFC), Washington DC (File Photo)“The
privacy ruling was unnecessary, confusing and adds yet another
innovation-stifling regulation to the Internet,” Arizona Republican Sen.
Jeff Flake said.
Violation of online privacy especially by the
CIA and the NSA (National Security Agency) has been the subject of
lingering debate in the US as the two spy agencies have already been
accused of using social networking sites to gather personal information
of people worldwide including of American citizens.
If the privacy
laws are finally overturned, there would be little to stop the
providers from selling online data to any agencies such as the CIA and
the NSA.
Privacy campaigners say repealing the existing laws
without a new legislative framework in place could create an enforcement
vacuum.
Without those protections, consumer advocates also fear
that broadband providers will be able to do what they wish with people’s
data.
“Advertisers and marketers are lining up to get access to
all the information that’s now available about us,” said Jeff Chester of
the Center for Digital Democracy, which advocates for tougher Internet
privacy measures.
The telecommunications industry also largely
opposed the new rules because they give an unfair advantage to Internet
giants such as Google and Facebook. Although those companies make
billions selling browsing data by default, they would not be governed by
the new rules.

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