President Trump on Monday signed a bill repealing internet privacy rules passed last year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would have given internet users greater control over what service providers can do with their data, a White House spokeswoman confirmed.
FCC regulations would have required broadband companies to obtain permission from their customers in order to use their “sensitive” data – including browsing history, geolocation and financial and medical information – to create targeted advertisements.
The bill uses a little-known tool called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that allows Congress and the president to override regulations recently passed by agencies. A successful CRA bill also prevents the agency from implementing similar rules in the future.
Before Trump took office, the CRA had only been successfully passed once, after President George W. Bush took office in 2001. As of Monday night, Trump signed 10 bills into law. undoing Obama-era regulations, including the Internet Privacy Rule.
mosadsPolitico first reported that Trump signed the bill Monday night.
The bill caused an uproar when it passed the House and Senate last month, with critics accusing Republicans of selling out their constituents’ privacy.
“It’s shocking that of all the challenges facing this country, the Trump administration is prioritizing the suppression of people’s privacy,” said Craig Aron, CEO of the advocacy group Free Press.
“There is literally no public support for this bill. Its only advocates are the nation’s largest phone, cable and internet companies. There is no longer a question – if there ever was – who the needs of this administration intend to meet. But people everywhere are on high alert about the grave threat to the free and open Internet. And they will fight back. »
Meanwhile, the GOP and industry supporters of the bill argued that the regulations would have placed unfair restrictions on broadband providers, given that web companies like Facebook and Google also advertise based on data and do not have to comply with similar restrictions.
“We welcome President Trump’s action today upholding Congress’s decision to press the reset button by stopping rules that would have created a confusing and divisive privacy framework for consumers,” said Jonathan Spalter, CEO of USTelecom, in a press release.
“Consumers deserve and expect a cohesive set of online privacy protections, and this action helps pave the way for a more consistent approach across the entire internet ecosystem. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, modeling the Federal Trade Commission’s proven approach is a significant step toward a cohesive set of privacy protections that are consumer-friendly and innovation-friendly.
But that argument is proving to be a tough sell, as the bill has been widely denounced by consumer advocates, privacy groups and even late-night comedians.
“I guarantee you there is not a single person, not a single voter of any political stripe anywhere in America who has asked for this,” Stephen Colbert said on “The Late Show” last week. “No one in America has stood up in a town hall and said, ‘Sir, I’m asking you to let somebody else make money out of my shameful desires. Maybe blackmail me one day.
Democrats are already hitting vulnerable Republicans for their support for the bill.
The outrage was fierce enough to put the telecommunications industry, the driving force behind the bill, on the defensive. Three of the biggest internet service providers — AT&T, Comcast and Verizon — published blog posts on Friday decrying what they saw as a disinformation campaign against the bill.
They argued the backlash was overblown given that FCC rules never went into effect and popular websites not covered by the regulations also use customer data for ads.
“Let’s hope this week’s Congressional action puts us back on the path to a more rational, friendlier framework,” wrote Bob Quinn, AT&T’s chief lobbyist. “I also hope that the facts will come back into the debate.”
Updated at 8:54 p.m.