Trump Kills Internet Privacy

Sean Vo, Veritas Co-Editor-in-Chief

President Donald Trump signed a bill on April 3 repealing internet privacy rules passed last year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The privacy rules would have given internet users greater control over what service providers are able to do with their data. The FCC regulations would have required big businesses to request permission from their customers in order to access their normally private information stored online.

With the bill Trump has signed off on, all of those regulations will be revoked. Broadband companies can now access their customers search history, medical information, location data, etc. The bill utilizes a not well known tool called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that allows for Congress and the president to overturn recently passed agency regulations. A successful CRA would also prevent similar bills from being pushed into action in the future.

As of Monday night, Trump had signed ten bills reversing many of Obama’s recent regulations, one of those being the internet privacy rule.

The CEO of the advocacy group Free Press, Craig Aron, said, “It’s shocking that of all the challenges facing this country the Trump administration would prioritize taking away people’s privacy. There is literally no public support for this bill. Its only advocates are the nation’s biggest phone, cable and Internet companies. There’s no longer any question — if there ever was — whose needs this administration intends to serve. But people everywhere are on high alert to the serious threat to the free and open Internet. And they will fight back.”

According to the Washington Times, the Senate passed the bill two weeks ago now and it “cleared the House Tuesday on a 215-205 vote,” and with that, the bill went straight to Trump to sign.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “This is staggering. This is almost a surrender. If the Republicans are allowed to do this, we have surrendered all thoughts of privacy for the American people.”

The 215 votes came from most Republicans, while those who voted against the bill (the 205) came from the Democrats and fifteen Republicans.

Senator Chuck Schumer urged Trump to veto the bill, but to no success. Schumer stated, “Signing this roll back into law would mean that private data from our laptops, our iPads, even our cell phones will be fair game for internet companies to sell to the highest bidder.”

“This would allow broadband providers to become unchecked virtual peeping Toms. Simply put, ISPs would be able to collect and sell sensitive data from your internet connection without your consent,” he continued.

Big companies such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon released a statement saying they wouldn’t voluntarily sell customers’ individual internet browsing information. Vice president at public interest group Public Knowledge Chris Lewis said, “These companies can [also] force Americans to pay to preserve their online data, as some companies have posited. This potentially raises broadband prices for everyone and forces poor Americans to choose between their privacy and access to the internet — period.”

While those who support the bill say there will not be anything to worry about in the foreseeable future, I, like many others, fear this is a move in the wrong direction.  





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