There has been a tremendous public outcry over the Senate vote that will soon allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to collect and sell consumers’ browsing data to advertisers without asking for their consent.
The Senate vote was made completely along party lines, with the Republicans winning the vote 50 to 48.
The implications of the US Senate’s vote to eliminate the crucial broadband privacy rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission could be severe in the long run.
No one was surprised when the Republican decided to overturn the FCC’s privacy regulations using the expedited procedure set up by the 1996 Congressional Review Act in a move believed to be part of the process of rolling back former US President Barrack Obama’s regulatory agenda.
But the politicizing of a matter as sensitive as online privacy, especially at a time when cybercrime is at an all-time high, could be the herald to an internet security catastrophe.
Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who first proposed the Senate legislation a fortnight ago, ironically believes that this is a step that will empower consumers to make informed choices on how their private data is shared.
So far, no Republican member of the House has come up with a solid perspective on how this move will benefit the consumer or improve internet security in any way, though.
FCC, Democrats, and Privacy Advocates up in Arms against Proposed Legislation
The legislation is currently one signature away from being made into law despite the backlash that has followed its proposal and consequent passage through the Senate.
While the FCC chairman Ajit Pai is more concerned over the confusion that changing the privacy rules for ISPs without doing the same for online companies such as Google will bring, Democrats and privacy advocates are livid with the authorization of a legislation that fundamentally legalizes the distribution of every consumer’s private browsing history without their permission, thereby compromising consumers’ internet security and privacy.
Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass) called out President Trump for being insecure about his own internet security, but allowing the privacy of Americans to be put in jeopardy by the Republican majority.
According to him and his fellow Democrats, ISP might as well stand for “invading subscriber privacy.”
The Passing of the Legislation Would be a Blow to Internet Security
If passed, this legislation would give American ISPs such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast the legal authority to relentlessly collect every bit of private consumer data, including locations, social security numbers, and financial information, and monetize it by selling it to the relevant advertising companies without asking for any consent from the consumers involved.
EFF’s Kate Tummarello weighed in on the matter by painting the grave reality that ISPs will have full monopoly over everyone’s private browsing history, which they will sell to the highest bidder at their own discretion.
Republican senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) apparently agrees with this strategy because according to him, FCC’s privacy regulations “stifled economic growth and affected job creators.”
He considers this among the “harmful” regulations put in place by Obama’s administration shortly before his exit from the White House.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore) sees this not only as a threat to internet security, but as the arm-twisting of helpless internet consumers who will have no choice but to conform or live without internet access altogether.
According to him, it is not the monetization of consumer data that is under contention—that has never been an issue with the FCC—it is the sale of said data to the highest bidder without seeking explicit consent from the consumer that it poses a great risk to the internet security and privacy of Americans.
FCC Regulations had Consumers’ Best Interests at Heart
About 90,000 petitions were submitted to Congress by advocacy groups such as the ACLU, Free Press, and Demand Progress in a bid to save broadband privacy and internet security in general.
On the other end of the spectrum, advertising lobby groups and ISPs were jubilant over the Senate’s decision to roll back the FCC’s “unwarranted” rules which are apparently detrimental to competitive neutrality.
There is no question that FCC’s rules have kept every consumer’s interests at heart and worked to ensure that internet security is maintained at all costs.
Under these regulations, ISPs would be required to abide by opt-in and opt-out provisions that legally forbade them from sharing or monetizing consumer data in any way without their explicit consent.
These particular provisions would have been effected as early as December 4thof this year.
ISPs would also have been required by law to conform to a data security component which would have obligated them to take “reasonable” measures to protect private consumer data from being breached and stolen.
Had the Republican majority not stopped the implementation of this regulation, it would have taken effect on March 2nd.
As of now, the fate of internet security lies in the hands of the House and/or President Donald Trump.