On Monday, President Donald Trump signed a congressional resolution to overturn internet privacy protections adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under President Barack Obama. Broadband internet service providers will now remain authorized to track and sell customers’ online data without obtaining explicit consent from consumers—a practice that Obama’s policy would have blocked had it taken effect in December 2017 as planned.
Trump’s move honors longstanding Republican opposition to the Obama-era rules, approved in October, which would have applied to providers like Verizon and Comcast but not internet companies like Google and Facebook, which are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Service providers criticized the existence of divergent regulatory schemes, while lawmakers who opposed overturning the Obama-era rules argued that consumers could opt out of using Google and Facebook but opting out of the internet altogether is effectively impossible.
When the decision was announced, some lamented the end of internet privacy, even though the Obama-era rules had yet to take effect. While such reactions might be overblown, the fact that the status quo for service providers remains in place does have implications for privacy, digital trade and even national security.