NEW YORK – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today ramped up his call to stop critical consumer protections from being axed by publicly calling on President Trump to veto a resolution – shockingly passed by both the House and Senate this week – that rolls back critical broadband privacy regulations that were put in place by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from collecting and selling personal sensitive information, like your health info, finances, social security number and more.
“If President Trump clicks his pen and signs this resolution, consumers will be stripped of critical privacy protections in a New York Minute,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Signing this rollback into law would mean private data from our laptops, iPads, and even our cellphones would be fair game for internet companies to sell and make a fast buck. An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that their private information should be just that—private—and not for sale without their knowledge. That’s why I’m publicly urging President Trump to veto this resolution. He has just nine days to tell us whose side he is really on, and I hope it is the side of millions of consumers. Most would agree: a family’s deeply personal information—like Social Security number, finances and health background—should not be sold to the highest bidder.”
Schumer said that, if signed by the President, the contents of an individual’s emails or web browsing history—which could include anything from health to finances to SSN and more– could be sold to third parties without the individual’s explicit consent. Schumer explained that because the bill was sent to President Trump on Friday, and according to rules, he now has just nine days make a decision and tell us whose side he’s really on.
The rollback eliminates broadband privacy rules that would require ISPs to receive explicit opt-in consent from consumers prior to sharing “sensitive” personal data. Using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress can consider legislation to reverse regulations of the previous Administration by a simple majority vote. The broadband regulations that were enacted by the FCC last term were part of an effort to improve the way ISPs treat customer data.
Under the rules, information such as one’s SSN, email contents, browsing history, precise geo-location, app usage, and health and financial information were defined as sensitive personal data. As a result, ISPs would be barred from using this data, unless the consumer consented. If signed by President Trump, this bill would allow broadband providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and others free rein to share this sensitive information with data farms and advertisers without affirmative consent. Furthermore, the legislation would prevent the FCC from reinstating similar privacy protections in the future.
Schumer made the case that by overturning the broadband privacy rules, companies will be able to learn more about an individual’s identity and track personal habits. For instance, Schumer said that ISPs may sell personal data on a person who might be pregnant and googling baby products; or ISPs may sell personal data on a person who might have cancer and is googling cancer treatment options; or a person who might have an addiction problem who is googling rehabilitation centers. Schumer said that these examples show how serious this issue is and how important consumer privacy is to people nationwide. Under the Senate bill, private browsing information and app-usage history is compromised.
Earlier this week, Schumer signed onto a letter, signed by 46 Senate Democrats—urging the President to veto this resolution. The full text of the letter from Senate Democrats can be found below:
Dear Mr. President:
We write today to urge a swift veto of S.J.Res. 34, a resolution that would rescind the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) broadband privacy rules. This legislation will seriously undermine the privacy protections of the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe that their private information should be just that – private – and not for sale without their knowledge.
The rules that this legislation would undo were enacted by the FCC in order to prohibit internet service providers (ISPs) from selling or sharing the sensitive personal data of their customers without first obtaining consent. The data protected under the rule includes information such as one’s social security number, email contents, web browsing history, precise geo-location, application usage, data about consumer’s health and finances, and even data about their children. In deeming this sort of information as sensitive, and requiring explicit opt-in consent before it can be shared, the FCC sent a clear message that the choice should be in the hands of consumers – not the broadband providers.
The FCC’s rules were finalized following a lengthy and transparent rulemaking process where members of the public were able to review the rules and submitted more than 250,000 comments, letters, and filings. S.J.Res. 34, which the Republicans hastily pushed through in the past few days, will not only undo this transparent process, it will prevent the FCC from ever reinstating similar consumer privacy protections in the future. As a result, broadband providers have free rein to share user data without first receiving consent or even notifying consumers.
Reversing these landmark privacy protections would be the antithesis of a pro-consumer Administration. Accordingly, we respectfully urge you to veto S.J.Res. 34 and make sure that the broadband privacy protections stay intact. Consumers deserve the right to make their own decisions about access, use, and sale of their personal, sensitive internet data by their broadband provider.