Access Now condemns U.S. Senate measure to gut internet privacy

Washington D.C. (March 23, 2017) — Today, the U.S. Senate approved a measure to revoke essential rules that protect people from some of the biggest threats to their privacy and security online. Broadband providers can see just about everything we do on the internet, including the most personal websites we visit. The Senate used a procedural process called the Congressional Review Act to undermine a common sense rule meant to protect our most sensitive, personal data against misuse and abuse.

“This resolution is a vote for big corporate profits over the rights and civil liberties of average people,” said Nathan White, Senior Legislative Manager at Access Now. “The House of Representatives must now stand up for consumers and against the CRA resolution to throw away internet privacy protections.”

As it currently exists, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) rules empower individuals to decide whether service providers can share sensitive data with other companies, and provide an opt-out for other uses of their data. The rules are also aimed at limiting the threat of malicious online attackers and making sure we know when our data has been exposed. These standards are not only important for people in the U.S. but send a signal globally that companies handling internet data must respect users’ privacy and safeguard their security.

“The technologies we use to connect to the internet have holes and weaknesses that can put sensitive user data at risk. The last thing we need is companies that connect us to the internet threatening our security by doing nearly anything they want with our data,” said Drew Mitnick, Policy Counsel at Access Now.

The Senate passed the measure under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a law that not only allows Congress to erase agency rules, but also prevents passage of anything “substantial similar” in the future. If it is now approved by the House of Representatives, the CRA resolution would create a privacy black hole where no government agency would be able to effectively protect our sensitive internet data. It would put companies, not us, in control of our data.

Access Now supported the original rulemaking process, and we strongly back the rules as they stand. We now urge the House of Representatives to protect internet users and reject the use of the CRA to backtrack on internet privacy.