House Republicans Vote to Destroy FCC's Online Privacy Protections

Contact Info: 

Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838

WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution of disapproval to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s landmark broadband-privacy rules, giving companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon free rein to spy on customers and sell their private information. The vote follows the Senate’s passage of the resolution last Thursday. More than 15,000 calls against the measure poured into the Capitol in the two days before the House vote.

The resolution, based on an arcane Newt Gingrich-era law called the Congressional Review Act (CRA), was passed by a simple House majority. If President Trump signs it, the measure will 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, may also prevent the FCC from adopting similar consumer-privacy protections in the future.

Free Press Action Fund President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“Ignoring calls from thousands of their constituents, House Republicans just joined their colleagues in the Senate in violating internet users’ privacy rights. Apparently they see no problem with cable and phone companies snooping on your private medical and financial information, your religious activities or your sex life. They voted to take away the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of Americans just so a few giant companies could pad their already considerable profits. Facing a growing public outcry, they rushed through this vote before more people could find out what was at stake.

“Your personal information is a gold mine for companies on the internet, and you need the essential FCC protections adopted last year to prevent outright exploitation. Republicans want to ditch the common-sense rules on the books at the FCC in favor of some hypothetical new law. But the majority has yet to offer any proposal framework that will protect people from this predatory spying. They repealed these essential protections with no plan to ever replace them.

“If Donald Trump signs this resolution, ISPs will be able to work with brokers to skirt laws specifically designed to protect your health and financial data to buy and sell information on your online habits. They’ll use their access to literally everything you do online to circumvent longstanding civil rights protections in housing, employment and consumer credit — without your permission or any way to know what’s happening.

“The FCC rules these out-of-touch politicians find so objectionable simply give people the right to decide for themselves whether to allow their ISPs to share or sell their personal information, including their web-browsing histories. That should be a basic right, but for House Republicans making money for the cable companies is a far higher priority than your privacy. Everyone should look at the roll call and remember where their representatives stood today.”

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