As expected, President Trump has signed a resolution — recently passed by both the Senate and House — killing the FCC’s new broadband privacy rules, making sure that internet service providers are legally allowed to profit off users’ personal information.
Without additional comment, the White House confirmed on Monday night that President Trump had signed SJ Res. 34, which rolls back rules finalized by the FCC last October, and effectively prevents the agency from coming up with regulations that are similar.
Those rules would have barred internet service providers — not just cable companies, but also wireless data providers — from using or selling highly sensitive user information (including geographic location, health or financial information, Social Security numbers, browsing and app-usage histories) without explicit permission from customers. It would also have required ISPs to let users opt out of sharing less-sensitive information (including your name, address, IP address, and subscription level).
Cable and wireless companies (and their respective lobbyists) opposed these rules, claiming it was unfair for the FCC to provide one set of regulations for broadband providers and another for online content companies (like Google, Amazon, and Netflix).
The problem is, the privacy practices of those companies is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, which has limited ability to make rules. The FCC does have rulemaking authority, but it has no legal authority to regulate content companies.
So rather than create a law giving the FTC rulemaking authority or introduce far-reaching privacy legislation that evens the playing field and protects all consumers, Congress decided to gut the FCC rules through a process that provides for no debate, no amendment, and only requires a simple majority to pass through the Senate.
The regulations were finalized in Oct. 2016, but were eligible for rollback via the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law that allows Congress to express its disapproval of new, major regulations. To undo rules, the CRA requires majority votes in both the House and Senate, and then the signature of the President.
Until this administration, the CRA had only been used successfully once in its two decades of existence. Nearly a dozen CRA resolutions have gone to the President for signing in just the last few weeks.