Senate Republicans Launch Effort to Let Cable Companies Snoop on People's Private Information

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Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838

WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Flake (R–Arizona), joined by 21 Republican senators including Mike Lee (R–Utah), Rand Paul (R–Kentucky), Marco Rubio (R–Florida) and John Thune (R–South Dakota), introduced a resolution of disapproval that would overturn the landmark broadband-privacy rules the FCC adopted in 2016.

The resolution, based on an arcane Newt Gingrich-era law called the Congressional Review Act (CRA), requires just a simple majority in the Senate. If passed by both the House and Senate and signed by the president, the resolution would eliminate rules requiring an internet service provider to obtain “opt-in” consent from its customers before selling their private data, like their web-browsing histories, or making use of that information for advertising purposes.

The CRA process, used successfully only once before the Trump administration took office this year, also prevents the FCC from adopting new measures that are substantially the same as the disapproved rules.

Free Press Action Fund Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

“Jeff Flake and his colleagues in the Senate will make a lot of noise in the coming days about how much they value your privacy. Don’t believe them for a second. If the sponsors of this resolution were serious about protecting your private information on the internet, the last thing they’d do is move to dismantle rules protecting it from unauthorized use and abuse by cable and phone companies.

“Lawmakers claim they just want to make sure that all internet companies play by the same rules. So where is the bill that Senator Flake and others would offer to replace the FCC privacy rules they’re targeting here? They can’t even pretend to have such legislation ready. Repeal and disgrace is the best they can do.

“At this point, Flake’s commitment to privacy is as empty as his rhetoric. He says he’s concerned with the practices of all internet companies, including ISPs and websites. This is the same song you’ll hear from people like Chairman Ajit Pai at the FCC, and the cable and phone companies looking to evade compliance with the agency’s rules. But instead of moving in Congress to strengthen the privacy laws that apply to every company on the internet, these senators propose ditching the current law and letting ISPs profit more easily off of your private data.”

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