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US ISPs Could Sell User Data If Obama’s Internet Privacy Rules Are Challenged

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Strict privacy rules for American ISPs may be overturned after Republican senator resolution

Strict privacy rules adopted by the Obama administration could be overturned after a republican senator filed a resolution to undo the regulations.

Last October the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced rules that apply to Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

The new rules requires ISPs to obtain explicit consent from their customers before selling data about online behaviour to third-party marketing businesses.Airbus

Republican Challenge

The rules came into force last Thursday, but the FCC last week temporarily blocked some of the rules from taking effect.

The FCC rules that require telecoms firms and ISPs to allow customers to opt-in to data collection agreements, has been fiercely opposed by the telecommunications industry in the US.

And now the regulations could be overturned in their entirety after Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona introduced a resolution on Tuesday to undo “economically harmful broadband regulations issued by the Obama administration.”

Senator Flake’s bid was backed by 34 other senators and will use a provision that allows Congress to repeal recently approved federal regulations.

Flake  noted that the resolution would not change or lessen existing consumer privacy regulations in the United States.

Instead it is intended to “block an attempt by the FCC to expand its regulatory jurisdiction and impose prescriptive data restrictions on internet service providers. These restrictions have the potential to negatively impact consumers and the future of internet innovation,” said Flake.

“The FCC’s midnight regulation does nothing to protect consumer privacy,” said Flake. “It is unnecessary, confusing and adds yet another innovation-stifling regulation to the internet.

Privacy Opposition

“My resolution is the first step toward restoring the FTC’s light-touch, consumer-friendly approach,” he added. “It will not change or lessen existing consumer privacy protections. It empowers consumers to make informed choices on if and how their data can be shared.”

But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has criticised Flake’s proposal to undo the rules, saying that some in the US Congress want companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon to be able to sell consumer private information to the highest bidder.

“The FCC’s privacy rules are a common-sense step toward giving consumers control over how their data is used and sold,” said the ACLU.

“Without these protections in place, we are at greater risk of having deeply personal and revealing information breached or used in a discriminatory way,” it said. “Congress must abandon its attempts to overturn this crucial rule and the FCC must resist calls to delay or weaken the rule’s protections.”

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