By Jonathan Moniz, Staff Writer
On Tuesday, March 28, Congress held a vote on the issuance of a regulation from Obama’s term in office, which granted the FCC the right to enforce privacy law according to the 1963 telecommunications law.
The law, which required companies to gain express permission before using data gathered from users, had been enforceable now by the regulation issued under Obama. Congress repealed the regulation, and referred all matters dealing with the telecommunications law to fall back to Congress.
It only affected internee service providers, giving companies like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T the ability to gather and sell user data without express consent required.
While the telecommunications law is still in effect, making this act illegal, it has now been referred back to Congress and taken out of the FCC’s jurisdiction, allowing Congress to decide on a case-by-case basis.
Repealing the ruling has been widely regarded as controversial on both sides of the political spectrum, despite voting amongst party lines.
When Breitbart News reported on the issue, many commenter’s responded citing concerns of free speech and censorship.
A statement from Marsha Blackburn, the Representative that sponsored the bill and brought it to the House, said that “this is the way to rein in an agency that was overreaching.” She further described the process by the Obama administration as hurting Internet service providers and preventing competition to face companies like Google and Yahoo!.
Owen Velho, a junior CIS major here at UMass Dartmouth, described the situation as with “companies prior to this having to put in a box to check, requiring users to [acknowledge] this. Now, they don’t even have to.”
He commented further, “that most people won’t find this a problem. But for the two percent that do, they are going to be very vocal and concerned about it.”
The reason companies like the search engine monoliths aren’t affected by this is because they are regulated under a different federal program, the Federal Trade Commission. Operating with a different set of rules and parameters, Congress did not pass any rulings on the FTC, despite the vast amounts of data managed by them.
Retracting the current regulation allows the companies access to your data, but for a number of reasons. From targeted advertisements that take advantage of your search/browsing history to use advertisements tailored to that data, to giving it away to government or foreign entities.
Congress reviewed the regulation under another controversial legislative piece, the Congressional Review Act, which allows them to review the regulation and find it faulty, therefore removing it from the commission or department that it was being managed by.
Once a repeal has been made through the CRA, the regulation cannot be re-instated, as the power given Congress states.
The controversy surrounding this decision is not set by partisan lines, instead spanning in equal parts across both parties. Many cite the unfair manner in which it was conducted, focusing on the Congressional Review Act and viewing it as an abuse of power.
Internet rights activists and privacy activists see this as a clear case of government overreach, threatening the privacy and rights of individuals by giving their data to corporations.
The bill has passed through Congress, appearing in both the House and Senate, and now is present at the White House for signing into law by President Trump. Trump has so far indicated he will sign the law into action.