Republicans in Senate Vote to Repeal Rules on Internet Privacy

Lawmakers from the GOP moved on Thursday to tear down landmark protections covering Internet privacy for consumers in a first decisive strike against technology and telecommunications regulations created under the Barack Obama administration and what is looked at as the beginning of more deregulation.

In a vote of 50-48 that was partisan voting, the Republican majority in the Senate voted on Thursday to overturn privacy rules that were created last October by the FCC.

It is expected that the House will mirror the action taken by the Senate in a vote next week, followed by the signing of the measure by the President.

This move means AT&T, Comcast or Verizon will be able to track and share the app and browsing action of users without asking permission.

The vote by the Senate has alarmed Democrat lawmakers and consumer advocates, who warned that providers of broadband will have the biggest view into the habits online of Americans.

Without these rules, Democrats said, the companies will have additional power to collect all the data they want on people and then sell the information.

The determined and brisk action taken by Congressional Republicans only two months into the new White House administration, has foreshadowed a wider ranging rollback of conservative members of Congress and companies such as Charter, Verizon and AT&T.

GOP lawmakers and Ajit Pai the new FCC chairman has said privacy rules had been onerous and strapped regulations unfairly on telecom companies, but not on companies on the Internet such as Google and Facebook that provide access as well, to content online.

The vote in the Senate was a big win for giant cable and telecommunications companies. Tom Wheeler, the chairman under the FCC during the Obama administration, had said that broadband would be more heavily regulated by categorizing service under the same regulatory grouping as telephone services that are looked at as utilities.

The move acknowledged how important internet was for communications, work, commerce and education, and a need for protecting users online said Wheeler.

Under the privacy rules for Internet that were passed by Wheeler apart from providers of broadband needing to ask users’  permission to track their browsing and other activities online, the companies also were required use of reasonable measure as a way to secure data of consumers against hackers.

Privacy rules were to go into effect the end of 2017.