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President Donald Trump on Monday signed into law a bill that repeals a set of privacy regulations that would have required internet service providers to request authorization before selling sensitive customer data to advertisers, or using that same information for marketing campaigns.
The White House issued a statement confirming Trump's repeal of the Obama-era rules, which put limitations on how ISPs can use and share customer information like geolocation data, financial information, browsing histories, data generated by children and health information, Reuters reports.
Crafted and adopted by the Federal Communications Commission last October under the Obama administration, the broadband privacy protections were not yet in full effect. As noted by BuzzFeed News, the new law not only repeals Obama-era protections, but bars the FCC from adopting similar rules in the future.
Republican lawmakers argued the old restrictions were unfair. Under the now rolled back regulations, ISPs like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon would have had fewer options than web entities like Google and Facebook, which are free to collect and share similar data to advertisers. As privacy advocates have noted, however, pitting ISPs against web services is perhaps not an apt comparison, as the former has access to certain unencrypted data.
The bill Trump signed into law passed through the U.S. Senate late last month in a vote largely drawn down party lines. Less than a week later, the draft arrived in the House of Representatives, where it was narrowly approved with a vote of 215 to 205.
Following the House passage last week, AT&T, Comcast and Verizon each published online statements promising not to sell customer browsing data. While Comcast and Verizon flatly stated they do not sell customers' personal browsing histories, AT&T went further and intimated the FCC should focus on curtailing data gathering allowances enjoyed by internet services companies.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai issued a statement following Trump's signing, saying the bill "appropriately invalidated one part of the Obama-era plan for regulating the internet." The rules, he claims, were designed to benefit a group of internet companies and did not represent all online consumers. Pai went on to say that the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission would collaborate to restore the "FTCs authority to police internet service providers privacy practices."
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