Congress moves to dismantle internet privacy rules

The Senate voted to overturn privacy rules that had been created in October by the Federal Communications Commission. That means a company like Comcast can continue tracking and sharing people’s browsing and app activity without asking their permission.

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers moved Thursday to dismantle landmark internet privacy protections for consumers in the first decisive strike against telecommunications and technology regulations created during the Obama administration and a harbinger of further deregulation.

In a 50-48 vote largely along party lines, the Senate Republican majority voted Thursday to overturn the privacy rules, which had been created in October by the Federal Communications Commission.

The House is expected to mirror the Senate’s action next week, followed by a signature from President Donald Trump.

The move means Verizon, Comcast or AT&T can continue tracking and sharing people’s browsing and app activity without permission. The Senate’s vote alarmed consumer advocates and Democratic lawmakers, who warned that broadband providers have the widest view into the online habits of Americans. Without the rules, they said, such companies would have more power to collect data on people and sell sensitive information.

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“These were the strongest online privacy rules to date, and this vote is a huge step backward in consumer protection writ large,” said Dallas Harris, a policy fellow for the consumer group Public Knowledge. “The rules asked that when things were sensitive, an internet service provider asked permission first before collecting. That’s not a lot to ask.”

The brisk and determined action of congressional Republicans, just two months into Trump’s administration, foreshadowed a broader rollback of tech and telecom policies that have drawn the ire of conservative lawmakers and companies such as AT&T, Verizon and…

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