President Trump signed a bill on Monday that repeals internet privacy rules, which passed under President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission, but had never gone into effect.
The FCC regulations would have required broadband companies to get 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 overturn recently passed agency regulations. 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 has signed 10 bills overturning Obama-era regulations, including the internet privacy rule.
Critics have accused Republicans of selling Americans’ privacy with the legislation.
"There is literally no public support for this bill. Its only advocates are the nation's biggest phone, cable and Internet companies. There's no longer any question -- if there ever was -- whose needs this administration intends to serve. But people everywhere are on high alert to the serious threat to the free and open Internet. And they will fight back,” said Craig Aron, CEO of Free Press, reports The Hill.
Republicans and those in the industry who supported the bill said it will level the playing field, as the regulations would have put unfair restrictions on broadband providers. Web giants like Facebook and Google, for example, already make data-driven ads and are not subject to similar rules.
“We welcome President Trump’s action today affirming Congress’ decision to hit the reset button by stopping rules that would have created a confusing and conflicting consumer privacy framework," USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter said in a statement.
"Consumers deserve and expect one consistent set of online privacy protections and this action helps clear the way for a more uniform approach across the entire internet ecosystem. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s commitment to modeling the Federal Trade Commission’s well-tested approach is a meaningful step toward a consistent set of privacy protections that are pro-consumer and pro-innovation."
Nevertheless, Republicans and the telecom industry have been widely denounced over their support of the legislation in what the Wall Street Journal notes has been a misinformation campaign.
“The result will be . . . the status quo,” the Journal writes. “The misinformation campaign is an attempt to bully Republicans and Chairman Pai out of reversing eight years of capricious regulation. Both deserve credit for not buckling amid the phony meltdown.”