White House Supports Repeal of Broadband Privacy Rules

Reuters

The White House said on Tuesday that the Trump administration strongly supports a bill to repeal regulations requiring internet service providers to do more to protect customers' privacy than websites like Alphabet Inc's Google or Facebook Inc.

The U.S. House is due to vote later on Tuesday to repeal rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission in October under then-President Barack Obama.

Under the rules, internet providers would need to obtain consumer consent before using precise geolocation, financial information, health information, children's information and web browsing history for advertising and marketing.

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Data cables at an office in Washington, D.C. Paul J. Richards / AFP-Getty Images

Last week, the Senate voted 50-48 to reverse the rules in a win for AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc.

The White House in its statement said internet providers would need to obtain affirmative "opt-in" consent from consumers to use and share certain information, but noted that websites are not required to get the same consent. "This results in rules that apply very different regulatory regimes based on the identity of the online actor," the White House said.

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Websites are governed by a less restrictive set of privacy rules overseen by the Federal Trade Commission.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the measure, said companies "should not be able to use and sell the sensitive data they collect from you without your permission."

The Internet & Television Association said the rules would "deny consumers consistent privacy protection online and violate competitive neutrality."

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Representative Michael Capuano, a Massachusetts Democrat, said Tuesday that Comcast could know his personal information because he looked up his mother's medical condition and his purchase history. "Just last week I bought underwear on the internet. Why should you know what size I take? Or the color?" Capuano asked. "They are going to sell it to the underwear companies."

Comcast declined to comment.

Representative Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, said the rules "unfairly skews the market in favor" of websites that are free to collect data without consent.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said last week consumers would have privacy protections even without the Obama administration internet provider rules.

Republican commissioners, including Pai, said in October that the rules would unfairly give websites like Facebook, Twitter Inc or Google the ability to harvest more data than internet service providers and thus dominate digital advertising. The FCC earlier this month delayed the data rules from taking effect.

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