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The controversial measure, which would change a host of Internet privacy protections enacted near the end of the Obama administration, would mean broadband Internet providers can collect data on user’s online activities. But backers of the proposal say the regulatory rollback of rules merely puts Internet providers on the same level as search engines like Google.
And there is some validity to this point of view. Other Internet giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and others, already collect and sell personal data from users. The rollback simply allows ISP’s to compete on a level playing field.
“Congressional action to repeal the [Federal Communications Commission’s] misguided rules marks an important step toward restoring consumer privacy protections that apply consistently to all Internet companies,” the Internet and Television Association, a telecommunications trade group, said in a statement.
Lawmakers argue that the unfairly targeted broadband providers and put them at a disadvantage when competing with internet companies like Google, Amazon and Netflix. Those web giants are not regulated by the FCC, but in recent years have begun competing with telecom companies’ consumers looking into online streaming services.
“Last year, the Federal Communications Commission pushed through, on a party-line vote, privacy regulations designed to benefit one group of favored companies over another group of disfavored companies,” FCC Chairman Pai said in a press release. “Appropriately, Congress has passed a resolution to reject this approach of picking winners and losers before it takes effect.”
The resolution aims to overturn a 2015 classification of broadband providers as a utility-like service that makes them subject to major regulatory oversight. The new measure also overturns the net neutrality rules prohibiting broadband providers from blocking, slowing down or charging extra for downloads of websites and apps.
Supporters of the resolution argue that the Obama-era regulations limit customer choices in their providers and jeopardize data security. They also point out that the rollback of the regulations, which have yet to be implemented, will not change any privacy protections for web users.
Net-neutrality supporters argue that government oversight of the companies was needed as consumers had few options for high-speed internet service and that broadband companies already have a wide-reaching view of their customers’ browsing habits.
Without the protections put down under the Obama administration, supporters of the regulations say that broadband companies will have access to sensitive information about their users.
Despite the resistance to the regulatory change, President Trump appears poised to sign the legislation into law.
A report from 2014 by the Pew Research Center found that the majority of net-neutrality experts agreed that the current expectations of digital privacy may be completely gone by 2025.
“As privacy is becoming increasingly monetized, the incentive to truly protect it is withering away, and with so much of policy run by lobbyists, privacy will be a very expensive commodity come 2025,” said Alf Rehn, the chair of management and organization at Finland’s Abo Akademi University. “Privacy will be a luxury, not a right — something that the well-to-do can afford, but which most have learnt to live without.”
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