House Republicans finalise controversial internet privacy law letting US companies sell browsing history

Critics are accusing Congress of doing more to please corporations than ensuring the security of their constituents on the internet 

Chloe Farand
Thursday 30 March 2017 14:22 BST
Internet users find it tough in remote locations with slower connections, but new rules could see providers forced to give better coverage
Internet users find it tough in remote locations with slower connections, but new rules could see providers forced to give better coverage

Internet users in the US could soon see their browsing history, geo-localisation data, health information and the content of their communications being sold to third parties without their consent.

The US House of Representatives has repealed a law which forced internet service providers to ask users permission before sharing sensitive and personal information with advertisers.

The internet privacy law was passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Barack Obama administration.

The law would have also enabled internet users to opt out of the sharing of less sensitive information like an email address.

Last week, the US Senate voted to overturn the internet privacy law and President Donald Trump is expected to sign the order to repeal the law soon.

The move was reportedly backed by major internet providers including Verzion, AT&T and Comcast, who claimed they were being subject to stricter privacy laws than companies like Google and Facebook.

Those supporting the repeal of the law said this will increase competition but critics have warned of the negative impact on online privacy.

On their website, Fight for the Future, an organisation which defends freedom of expression and creativity on the internet, said they would start a campaign with billboards exposing those in the House of Representatives who voted for the law to be repealed and have previously benefited from contributions from telecommunications companies.

Campaign director Evan Greer said: “Today Congress proved once again that they care more about the wishes of the corporations that fund their campaigns than they do about the safety and security of their constituents.”

“Gutting these privacy rules won’t just allow internet service providers to spy on us and sell our personal information, it will also enable more unconstitutional mass government surveillance, and fundamentally undermine our cybersecurity by making our sensitive personal information vulnerable to hackers, identity thieves, and foreign governments."

Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman, said in a statement: “Last year, the Federal Communications Commission pushed through, on a party-line vote, privacy regulations designed to benefit one group of favored companies over another group of disfavoured companies.

“Appropriately, Congress has passed a resolution to reject this approach of picking winners and losers before it takes effect.

“Moving forward, I want the American people to know that the FCC will work with the FTC to ensure that consumers’ online privacy is protected through a consistent and comprehensive framework.”

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