On April 3, the US President Donald Trump signed a repeal of the Obama-era broadband privacy rules. The rollback constitutes a victory for Internet service providers (ISPs) and a blow to users’ ability to control their sensitive data.
The Republican-controlled Congress passed the repeal of the broadband rules the week before, with no support from Democrats and over strong objections of privacy advocates. The newly signed bill effectively allows ISPs to sell information about their customers’ browsing habits.
The repealed regulations were adopted last October by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). They required ISPs to obtain consent from customers before using their sensitive information to create targeted advertisements. Such information includes users’ browsing history and details on their children, finances and health.
The regulations were originally scheduled to take effect last month, but Congress used its authority under the obscure Congressional Review Act to repeal them. The Congressional Review Act, or CRA, can be used to overturn any regulation within 60 days of its finalization. The law also prevents agencies from passing a “substantially” similar rule after the initial rule has been blocked, which is a major concern for legal experts and advocates.
Undoing the regulation leaves people’s online information in a dubious position. According to Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer, who urged President Trump to veto the bill, it will make users’ sensitive data available to the “highest bidder.”
“Signing this rollback into law would mean private data from our laptops, iPads, and even our cellphones would be fair game for internet companies to sell and make a fast buck,” Schumer said.
With the repeal signed into law, ISPs are able to collect location, financial, healthcare and browsing data from customers by default. Furthermore, the resolution does not simply revoke the privacy rules for the time being––it actually prevents the FCC from passing any similar regulations in the future.
As both the Congress and the President have chosen to support broadband providers over citizens’ rights, there are ways for Americans to protect their privacy, such as using a VPN. In fact, many are already considering it: We at NordVPN have noticed a 200% spike in user inquiries from the US since Congress approved new ISP rights.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) reroutes Internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel, scrambling all user’s online data, so their ISP cannot decipher and use it. It also hides user’s IP address, protecting their identity.
A few reasons why NordVPN has been getting so much attention lately are our focus on the ease of use and our strict commitment to keeping no logs.