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Poll: Should internet-service providers be able to sell web-browsing data without a customer’s permission?

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The U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday narrowly voted to pass deregulating Federal Communications Commission online privacy rules. The majority vote cast was 215-205 affecting internet service providers and customers’ personal information.

Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle, a Pittsburgh Democrat, lead the charge against passing of the bill. Despite his efforts, lawmakers remain split on its merit.

Proponents of the bill, expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump, explain that FCC regulations perpetuate fear, instead of provide privacy. Most internet-service providers already have policies in place that protect consumers’ information, and require consent of consumers’ to not sell their information to third-party advertisers. Also, wiretapping laws, and various state laws, are already on the books to protect consumers’ internet searches.

Lawmakers speaking against the bill claim that former President Barack Obama’s October rules provided consumers additional privacy. However, a handful of Republicans, including now Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, said the rules were unfairly written providing advantage to websites like Facebook, Twitter, Inc., or Google. The change in regulation would broaden, allowing other companies like Verizon, and Comcast, to analyze its consumers’ personal data. They, however, would still offer consumer consent, too.

In a White House statement, Trump’s administration wrote it “strongly supports House passage” of the bill, which would nullify the Federal Communications Commission’s final rule titled “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunication Services.”

“The rule applies the privacy requirements of the Communications Act of 1934 to broadband Internet Service Providers and other telecommunications carriers,” according to the statement. “In particular, the rule requires ISPs to obtain affirmative “opt-in” consent from consumers to use and share certain information, including app usage and web browsing history. It also allows ISPs to use and share other information, including email addresses and service tier information, unless a customer “opts-out.” In doing so, the rule departs from the technology-neutral framework for online privacy administered by the Federal Trade Commission. This results in rules that apply very different regulatory regimes based on the identity of the online actor.”

Should internet-service providers be able to sell web-browsing data without a customer’s permission?