ISPs, Marketers Rejoice as Senate Votes to Repeal Broadband Privacy Rules

The U.S. Senate voted this week in favor of repealing regulations that would require internet providers to obtain consumer consent before using geolocation, financial and health information, and web browsing history for advertising purposes, according to a report Thursday by Reuters.

The vote was split down party lines, with 50 Republicans approving the measure and 48 Democrats rejecting it, Reuters reports, as two remaining Republicans were absent and did not cast a vote. The bill will move onto the House of Representatives before it is expected to be signed by President Donald Trump.

See also: Want Your ISP to Respect Your Privacy? It May Come at a Cost

According to Bloomberg, “lawmakers expect Republican Donald Trump, who has vowed to ‘slash unnecessary regulations,’ to sign the death warrant of the privacy rule, just as he’s signed other measures reversing rules passed late in the presidency of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. Lawmakers are invoking a procedure called the Congressional Review Act that was little used until now.”

The Congressional Review Act lets Congress kill recently passed regulations on a majority vote of both chambers and with the president’s signature, Bloomberg says. The regulation, which was passed in October, required broadband providers “to ask customers before using web-browsing and app use history for ads. Many customers, when asked, decline.”

ISPs and marketing trade groups have applauded the Senate’s move, as consumer watchdogs encouraged users to call their lawmakers to make sure it doesn’t pass the House.

The win is a “big victory” for internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, who “have been trying to get rid of these rules since they day they were approved,” Consumers Union senior policy counsel Jonathan Schwantes told Consumer Reports.

“ISPs act as gatekeepers to the Internet, giving them incredible access to records of what you do online. They shouldn’t be able to profit off of the information about what you search for, read about, purchase, and more without your consent,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said.

When the rules were first proposed last year, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) said that they were unnecessary, and that “existing privacy self-regulatory programs such as those carried out by the Digital Advertising Alliance are working well and already provide consumer transparency, notice and choice for interest-based advertising.”

Hosting providers and domain registrars fall under the category of “edge providers”- not Broadband Internet Access Service (BIAS) providers – so the privacy rules wouldn’t be applicable. In a statement last May, i2Coalition said that “BIAS providers should not be allowed to use this information for purposes unrelated to the provision of BIAS, unless the customer expressly consents to other uses through some form of ‘opt in.’ BIAS providers should not be allowed to use this information to gain a competitive or other untoward advantage over the edge providers that users interact with as part of the Internet experience.”

You can read the full i2Coalition statement here.

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