House Votes to Repeal FCC Protections  of Personal Consumer Information

House Votes to Repeal FCC Protections of Personal Consumer Information

Photo Courtesy of Bordas & Bordas Attorneys, PLLC

According to Sen. Schumer, if the bill passes the House of Representatives, it could mean dire consequences for personal consumer information.

By Michael V. Cusenza

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday voted in favor of repealing protections of personal consumer information from being sold to third parties or the highest bidding companies.

Last week, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer noted, Senate Republicans voted in support of a bill to roll back broadband privacy regulations that were put in place by the Federal Communication Commission last October to prevent internet service providers – Comcast, Verizon, AT&T – from collecting and selling sensitive information.

According to Schumer, now that the bill has passed the House, the contents of an individual’s emails or web browsing history – which could include anything from health to finances to Social Security Numbers, and more – could be sold to third parties without the individual’s explicit consent. Schumer said that ISPs should be held to stricter standards, and that consumers should be required to consent to this kind of information being sold to data brokers and other private companies looking to make money off of personal information.

“A family’s personal information shouldn’t go to the highest bidder and an internet connection shouldn’t come with a welcome mat for companies to walk all over you without your knowledge,” Schumer added. “This vote to dismantle and kill the protections put in place for a person’s private information is a real danger to consumers, who, for years now, have been on the losing end of privacy battles. The little privacy we have left, the kind that enshrines our personal emails, our health information, our finances and even the websites our kids visit must not be made available to everyone and anyone. That’s why I will continue to fight this rollback on consumer privacy tooth and nail.”

Schumer made the case that by overturning the broadband privacy rules, companies will be able to learn more about an individual’s identity and track personal habits. For instance, Schumer said that ISPs may sell personal data on a person who might be pregnant and googling baby products; or ISPs may sell personal data on a person who might have cancer and is googling cancer treatment options; or a person who might have an addiction problem who is googling rehabilitation centers. He said that these examples show how serious this issue is and how important consumer privacy is to people nationwide. Under the Senate bill, private browsing information and application-usage history is compromised.

New York’s senior senator went on to note that the broadband regulations that were enacted by the FCC last term were part of an effort to improve the way ISPs treat customer data. Under the rules, information such as one’s SSN, email contents, browsing history, precise geo-location, app usage, and health and financial information were defined as sensitive personal data. As a result, ISPs would be barred from using this information, unless the consumer consented. Now that the legislation has passed the House as well, the law would prevent the FCC from reinstating similar privacy protections in the future, Schumer said.


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