Internet privacy regulations on Trump’s agenda

By Austin Sanchez |

Flagler College students browse the internet during class.

In a significant blow to Obama-era FCC regulations, the House voted last week to reverse internet privacy rules and now has set their sights on net neutrality laws.

Congress invoked the powers of a Congressional Review to overturn an FCC ruling that would apply privacy requirements of the Communications Act of 1934 to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and telecommunications companies.

The joint resolution, passed by a partisan vote of 215-205, now proceeds to the President Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.

The ruling had required carriers to “provide privacy notices that clearly and accurately inform customers; obtain opt-in or opt-out customer approval to use and share sensitive … proprietary information” and “take reasonable measures to secure customer proprietary information,” according to the FCC rule.

The rule was passed under FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and was due to take effect in the coming months. Wheeler has since been replaced by President Trump’s appointee, Ajit Pai, who previously worked as a lawyer for Verizon Communications.

Not only does the joint resolution nullify the FCC rule, it also prevents a similar ruling from being passed in the future.

Wheeler and many in the Democratic party have argued that the laws are the only safeguards in place to ensure the protection of consumers’ identities. Without this rule, they argue, ISPs will have free reign to sell internet consumers’ browsing history to the highest bidder.

Republicans in Congress have expressed their support of the bill, arguing that the laws restrict ISPs, while enabling “edge providers” (such as Google and Facebook) to sell data.

The FCC regulations were an instance of “bureaucrats in Washington … picking winners and losers,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer in a news conference following the resolution. Spicer went on to signal the president’s intention to also repeal net neutrality rules.

The rules maintain that ISPs provide equal access to all web and media sites.

Without the net neutrality regulations, ISPs could charge companies like Netflix and Facebook an extra fee to maintain the speed of accessing and browsing their sites.

Proponents of the net neutrality rules argue that it guarantees an open internet with equal access to all web content. Detractors say that the rules unfairly target ISPs and telecommunication services.

Most students at Flagler College expressed support of net neutrality laws and internet privacy regulations, but were ambivalent as to how their repeal may affect their browsing habits.

“I’m definitely for the protection of net neutrality,” sophomore Ricky Cramer said. “It’s really the only thing preventing accessing the internet from becoming exactly like trying to watch different shows on TV where you have to pay more to get different channels. I don’t think it’ll really affect me though.”

Others viewed the resolution as more of a nuisance.

“I’m not necessarily worried as much as I am annoyed,” said Brian Paradis, a junior studying history. “Privacy is a right which should not be commercialized. However, I don’t plan to mitigate my internet use. I’m not entirely sure the impact the law would have.”

Others still found the measure to be much ado about nothing.

“It’s all already happening anyways,” said political science major Patrick Dupeire, adding he finds the debate to be purely political. “Everyone already has their stuff gathered up anyways … Plus, it’s not like they’re going to sell your data to criminals or something. You’ll probably just see more targeted ads.”

While the Trump administration has indicated they plan to address net neutrality laws this week, it remains to be seen if they can fit it into a schedule that includes meetings with foreign heads of state and the Neil Gorsuch confirmation.

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