President Donald Trump as promised has signed into law a bill that overturns an earlier ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that would have forced Internet service providers to obtain consent before selling customers’ browsing history for advertising purposes.
The rules, which hadn’t yet gone into effect, were viewed as one of former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s top accomplishments during his tenure.
The US Senate voted 50-48 along party lines to overturn the ruling in late March with the House of Representatives turning in a similar partisan line vote of 215 to 205 less than a week later. The final step in the process was a signature from President Trump which he doled out on Monday.
Shortly after Congress’ decision, AT&T, Comcast and Verizon came forward to proclaim that they do not sell customers’ web browsing history. Some even pinned the blame for such practices on others.
Robert Quinn, Senior Executive Vice President for External and Legislative Affairs at AT&T, said that companies that collect and use the most customer information on the Internet aren’t the ISPs but others including operating system providers, web browsers, search engines and social media platforms. The proposed FCC rules, he added, had literally nothing to do with such companies and their practices which echoed the concerns of most Republicans.
Privacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU, meanwhile, argued that without the regulations in place, it would be easier for companies to sell private information regarding multiple facets of users’ lives including health and finances.
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