US Congress makes move to repeal data privacy laws

US data privacy is under threat after a vote by the US Congress to repeal an Obama-era law that required internet service providers (ISPs) to gain consent from users before sharing their data with third parties.

The law, which was passed in October and expected to take effect by the end of the year, meant ISPs would need clear permission to share data such as geo-location, financial information, social security, web browsing history, and more.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the order to repeal the law soon, on the advice of his advisers. In doing so, the door will be open for ISPs to do anything they like with the data of US citizens.

A statement from the White House press office reads:

“The Administration strongly supports House passage of S.J.Res. 34, which would nullify the Federal Communications Commission’s final rule titled “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunication Services,” 81 Fed. Reg. 87274 (December 2, 2016). The rule applies the privacy requirements of the Communications Act of 1934 to broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other telecommunications carriers. In particular, the rule requires ISPs to obtain affirmative “opt-in” consent from consumers to use and share certain information, including app usage and web browsing history. It also allows ISPs to use and share other information, including e-mail addresses and service tier information, unless a customer “opts-out.” In doing so, the rule departs from the technology-neutral framework for online privacy administered by the Federal Trade Commission. This results in rules that apply very different regulatory regimes based on the identity of the online actor.

“If S.J.Res. 34 were presented to the President, his advisors would recommend that he sign the bill into law.”

News of the vote led Vijaya Gadde, general counsel of Twitter, to Tweet that it was “time to start using a VPN at home”. The Tweet was retweeted by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.