President Donald Trump on Monday quietly signed legislation eliminating federal rules that would have prevented internet providers from collecting and profiting off customers’ personal and financial information.
Trump’s signing of Senate Joint Resolution 34 (S.J. Res. 34), which wipes away Federal Communications Commission (FCC) privacy rules for broadband providers that were set to go into effect later this year, defies the wishes of a majority of American voters from both parties, including Trump supporters, while satisfying the broadband industry.
Without the FCC rules in place, ISPs may collect and sell web browsing histories, health and financial data, the contents of emails and messages, app usage data, Social Security numbers, and other private information. The resolution to eliminate the privacy rules passed the House and Senate with only the support of Republican lawmakers, who argued that the FCC lacks the authority to regulate internet providers and created an unfair advantage for web companies like Google and Facebook, which have built their empires by selling similar data.
“We welcome President Trump’s action today affirming Congress’ decision to hit the reset button by stopping rules that would have created a confusing and conflicting consumer privacy framework,” Jonathan Spalter, CEO of broadband industry trade group USTelecom, said in a statement. “Consumers deserve and expect one consistent set of online privacy protections and this action helps clear the way for a more uniform approach across the entire internet ecosystem.”
Critics of the resolution—who span the political spectrum—say S.J. Res. 34 is a gift to ISPs at the expense of Americans’ privacy.
“Donald Trump said he was going to drain the swamp, but it didn’t take long for the swamp to drain him,” Evan Greer, campaign director of internet freedom group Fight for the Future, said in a statement, “the only people in the United States who want less internet privacy are CEOs and lobbyists for giant telecom companies who want to rake in money by spying on all of us and selling the private details of our lives to marketing companies.”