The Federal Communication Commission’s move to stop internet service providers from collecting customers’ personal information without consent has itself been halted, as reported by BuzzFeed and The New York Times.
The Senate voted 50-48 today to overturn the rules, with the House expected to follow suit. The vote was mostly along party lines, with two Republican senators abstaining.
The privacy protections, passed 3-2 by the FCC in October, also along party lines, required customers to affirmatively opt-in to allow their broadband providers to collect and share information such as browsing history and location. Comcast Corp. and industry groups lobbied for the FCC to allow opt-out consent instead, and Republican commissioners criticized the rules for subjecting ISPs to tighter privacy regulations than so-called edge providers, such as Google and Facebook, which are required to follow consumer protection rules enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.
In a joint statement earlier this month, Ajit Pai, who became chair of the FCC in January, and Maureen Ohlhausen, the acting chair of the FTC, wrote: “The federal government shouldn’t favor one set of companies over another—and certainly not when it comes to a marketplace as dynamic as the Internet. So going forward, we will work together to establish a technology-neutral privacy framework for the online world.”
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, both Democrats, responded to today’s vote by saying the legislation “will frustrate the FCC’s future efforts to protect the privacy of voice and broadband customers. It also creates a massive gap in consumer protection law as broadband and cable companies now have no discernible privacy requirements.”