Trump’s signature came after the U.S. House voted March 28, largely along party lines, to dismantle the FCC’s rules — scheduled to go into effect later this year — after a similar vote in the Senate a week before.
Had they gone into effect, the rules would have prohibited internet providers from collecting and sharing personal information — such as browsing histories, mobile location data and financial or health information — without users’ consent.
The repealed FCC rules applied to broadband internet service providers and wouldn’t have affected internet-based data collectors like Google or Facebook. This means, under the repealed regulations, users would have had to give providers like Verizon or AT&T explicit permission before those companies could use their information for advertising purposes.
Critics said the rules gave internet data collectors an advantage over broadband counterparts.
The White House said in a statement that it supported overhauling the FCC’s privacy rules.
“The rule departs from the technology-neutral framework for online privacy administered by the Federal Trade Commission,” the statement said. “This results in rules that apply very different regulations based on the identity of the online actor.”
With the president’s signature, ISPs will now be able to compete fully with internet data miners in an $83 billion market for digital advertising.
Many broadband companies have expressed their approval of the deregulation.
Bob Quinn, AT&T’s senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, said in a statement that rescinding the rules will not affect consumer privacy protection.
“AT&T’s privacy protections are the same today as they were five months ago when the FCC rules were adopted,” he said in the statement. “We had the same protections in place the day before the Congressional resolution was passed...”
The statement said ISPs like AT&T are still governed by Section 222 of the Communications Act, which states that telecommunications carriers have a duty to protect the confidentiality of their customers’ information and prohibits them from using that information for their own advertising efforts.
Trump’s FCC chairperson, Ajit Pai, called the repealed FCC regulations an “overreach” in a statement. He said the Federal Trade Commission, not the FCC, should be the one regulating ISPs’ data-mining practices.
“In my view, the best way to achieve that result would be to return jurisdiction over broadband providers’ privacy practices to the FTC, with its decades of experience and expertise in this area,” Pai said.