Senate Votes to Undo Internet Privacy Rules

Senate lawmakers have narrowly voted in favor of a resolution to eliminate a set of Internet privacy rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission last year that aimed to prevent broadband providers from selling user browsing data without consent.

If the resolution is passed, not only would ISPs be able to sell consumer behavioral data to third-party marketers, “substantially similar” rules could not be passed by agencies in the future pursuant to the authority of the Congressional Review Act.

Republicans assert that the privacy regulations are overly broad and subject ISPs to stricter requirements than others face with respect to the collection of consumer data, such as Facebook and Google. They also take the position that if the FCC’s ability to govern Internet privacy is restricted, the Federal Trade Commission and state Attorneys’ General will retain jurisdiction to enforce unfair and abusive privacy practices.

Conversely, Democrats take the position that the FTC does not possess data security rulemaking authority and that privacy rules should be preemptive, rather than reactive, in nature. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, stated “[a]t a time when our personal data is more vulnerable than ever, it’s baffling that Senate Republicans would eliminate the few privacy protections Americans have today.”

Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union stated that “[i]t is extremely disappointing that the Senate voted today to sacrifice the privacy rights of Americans in the interest of protecting the profits of major Internet companies, including Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.”

The resolution now heads to the House.

Contact an FTC Defense Lawyer to ensure that your lead generation campaigns and related privacy practices comply with applicable regulatory requirements.

Richard B. Newman is an Internet marketing compliance and regulatory defense attorney at Hinch Newman LLP focusing on advertising and digital media matters. His practice includes conducting legal compliance reviews of advertising campaigns, representing clients in investigations and enforcement actions brought by the Federal Trade Commission and state Attorneys General, commercial litigation, advising clients on promotional marketing programs, and negotiating and drafting legal agreements.

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