In a narrow 50-48 vote on Thursday, the Senate opted to use the Congressional Review Act to scrap the FCC’s controversial broadband privacy rules.
The measure, known as S.J. Res. 34, formally states “disapproval” of the FCC’s 2016 broadband privacy rules and stipulates “such rule shall have no force or effect.” It still needs to be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by the president to take effect.
The bill was introduced by Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal earlier this month the FCC’s move to regulate internet service providers under Title II was a “power grab” and the privacy rules were a further “overreach.” The FTC’s existing privacy regulations are enough, he said.
“It is imperative for rule-making entities to stay in their jurisdictional lanes,” Flake wrote. “We need to reject these harmful midnight privacy regulations that serve only to empower bureaucrats and hurt consumers.”
Congressional action to roll back the rules was supported back in January by a coalition of 16 industry groups, including CTIA, the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), The Internet and Television Association (NCTA), and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, however, disagreed.
In a Wednesday afternoon speech, Nelson said the FCC’s privacy measure was “the most comprehensive update to its consumer privacy and data protection rules in decades.” Those rules, he said, put American consumers in the “‘driver’s seat’ of how their personal online data is used and shared by their broadband provider.”
Passed in October 2016, the FCC’s rules would separate consumer data into three categories requiring different kinds of consent (inherent, opt-out, and opt-in) prior to collection or sharing, require ISPs to disclose their data gathering practices, and beef up regulations surrounding ISP protection of consumer data and breach reporting requirements. New FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, earlier this month issued a stay of the policy’s data security requirements.
While some groups like TechFreedom and the 21st Century Privacy Coalition praised the Senate’s as hitting the “reset” button on “an overbroad definition of sensitive data out of step with consumer expectations,” others were less than thrilled.
The Center for Digital Democracy’s Executive Director Jeff Chester called the vote a “key victory for lobbyists from the ISP monopolies, such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon,” and said the Senate’s decision overturned “the only federal protection that could have protected (Americans’) privacy online.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations