President Trump Sides With Congress in Dismantling Broadband Privacy Rules

In an effort that began less than a month ago in the U.S. Senate with Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-Arizona) introduction of a joint resolution to disapprove FCC rules regarding broadband privacy and consumer data, President Trump completed the task by signing SJRes. 34 into law on Monday, April 3, 2017.

The measure was sent to President Trump on March 30, 2017, for his consideration by the Senate after the House of Representatives voted to approve it on March 28, 2017. The Senate had itself approved SJRes. 34 on March 23, 2017.

Votes in both legislative bodies followed party lines, with 50 Republican senators voting for the measure and 48 Democratic senators voting against its passage. In the House of Representatives, 215 Republican representatives voted to approve SJRes. 34, while 190 Democratic representatives were joined by 15 Republican representatives in voting against the passage of the joint resolution.

The FCC rules covered by SJRes. 34, which had not yet gone into effect after being adopted in October 2016, would have required internet service providers to obtain their customers’ permission before sharing individually-identifying consumer information such as accurate location information, web browsing activities and health, financial and even children’s information. ISPs are now free to use that information for their own marketing purposes and sell the sensitive information to others.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was pleased with President Trump’s signature on the resolution, saying it made a more level playing field for internet service providers, who are regulated by the FCC, next to websites, regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. Pai explained that the FTC’s rules don’t hold websites to the same standard as that that would have gone into effect for ISPs.

Might consumers’ privacy interests have been better served by upgrading the FTC’s rules regarding websites and their ability to cull consumer data for their own purposes and sell to others, rather than weakening the rules governing internet service providers to do the same?

A YouGov poll taken on March 31, 2017, of 1,000 adults in the United States showed that 74 percent of them opposed President Trump’s signing SJRes. 34 into law:

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