US moves to strip back online privacy

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By Kevin Freking, AP

WASHINGTON — Congress has sent President Donald Trump legislation that would kill an online privacy regulation, a move that could eventually allow internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to sell the browsing habits of their customers.

The Federal Communications Commission rule issued in October was designed to give consumers greater control over how internet service providers share information. But critics said the rule would have stifled innovation and picked winners and losers among Internet companies.

The House voted 215-205 to reject the rule. The Senate had already voted to the block it.

The vote is part of an extensive effort that Republicans have undertaken to void an array of regulations issued during the final months of Democratic President Barack Obama’s tenure. But the vote was closer this time with 15 Republicans siding with Democrats in the effort to keep the rule in place.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California., said Republicans put profits over the privacy concerns of Americans.

“Overwhelmingly, the American people do not agree with Republicans that this information should be sold, and it certainly should not be sold without your permission,” Pelosi said. “Our broadband providers know deeply personal information about us and our families.”

Internet companies like Google don’t have to ask users’ permission before tracking what sites they visit. Republicans and industry groups have blasted that discrepancy, saying it was unfair and confusing for consumers.

But proponents of the privacy measure argued that the company that sells you your internet connection can see even more about consumers, such as every website they visit and whom they exchange emails with. That information would be particularly useful for advertisers and marketers.