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Marketing Groups Praise Vote to Let ISPs Sell Consumer Data Without Consent; House Sends Bill to Trump's Desk

29 Mar, 2017 By: Doug McPherson, Thomas Haire

WASHINGTON – The United States Senate’s 50-48 vote last week to repeal regulations that forbade an internet service provider from selling users’ data without their permission was met with applause from Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and other broadband services.

Previously, due to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules, ISPs had to get consumers’ consent before selling or using their data for web history, location, financials, health, etc.

And after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill in a party-line vote Tuesday, most expect President Trump to sign it. The resolution would also prohibit the FCC from replacing the rules with similar regulations in the future.

The Data & Marketing Association (DMA, formerly the Direct Marketing Association) was quick to approve the Senate vote and called it a “victory for all who benefit from the data-driven marketing economy. Consumers understand the value that relevant ads provide, and put the value of the services they get for free on the internet at $1,200 per year.”

The Internet and Television Association said the Senate vote was as an important step for ”re-establishing a balanced framework that is grounded in the long-standing and successful FTC privacy framework that applies equally to all parties operating online.”

Privacy advocates condemned Congress’ votes. The Washington Post quoted Center for Democracy & Technology executive director Jeffrey Chester following Tuesday's house vote as saying, “Today's vote means that Americans will never be safe online from having their most personal details stealthily scrutinized and sold to the highest bidder.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which urged people to express opposition to the measure by calling their House representatives prior to Tuesday's vote, says ISPs “shouldn’t be able to profit off of the information about what you search for, read about, purchase, and more without your consent.”

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) was among the dissenters after his chamber voted, saying that the GOP “just made it easier for Americans’ sensitive information about their health, finances, and families to be used, shared, and sold to the highest bidder without their permission.”

Earlier this year, a group of broadband carriers promised the FCC that they would follow the privacy standards set out by the FTC. The carriers said they will allow subscribers to opt out of the use of “non-sensitive” web-surfing data for ad targeting purposes, and obtain people’s opt-in consent before drawing on a limited category of “sensitive” data, including precise geolocation information, financial account numbers, and some types of health data.

*This story was updated on Tuesday evening to reflect the House passage of the bill.

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