clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Senate could take the first step tonight to kill the FCC’s privacy rules

Sources say lawmakers could hold the first of two votes to kill the Obama administration’s protections.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Testifies To House Committee On The FCC's Net Neutrality Rule
Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Congress could take its first step as soon as Wednesday toward gutting the tough privacy rules imposed on Internet providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon last year during the Obama administration.

In October, the Federal Communications Commission — then under former Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler — began mandating that ISPs obtain consumers’ permission before turning over their private data to third parties, like advertisers.

Internet providers obviously loathed the rules, lambasting them as unfair and burdensome — and Republicans in Congress have heard their cries. To that end, the Senate could try to hammer the first nail in the coffin with a vote Wednesday evening on the measure, called a resolution of disapproval, that would overturn the FCC’s privacy order, according to two sources familiar with the plan.

A spokesman for Sen. Jeff Flake, one of the lawmakers who spearheaded the effort, confirmed the hope is to advance it this evening. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to comment. Update: The Senate voted tonight to begin debating their measure, putting lawmakers on track for a final vote to roll back the FCC’s rules tomorrow.

As always in the Senate, schedules can change. But if lawmakers there prevail — along with another, expected successful vote in the House in the coming weeks — the FCC’s privacy rules would be officially wiped from the books.

An end to the FCC’s efforts would amount to a major victory for the telecom industry — not the least because it would allow companies hungry for new revenue streams to gather and monetize more customer data. That includes the likes of Verizon, which sought to buy Yahoo (that cyber attack notwithstanding) to take advantage of the web company’s data and ad tools.

That’s why the leading trade groups for those telecom companies, like CTIA, which represents wireless firms, and U.S. Telecom, which works on behalf of the broader industry, wrote Congress in January, asking them to kill the FCC’s privacy rules. New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also opposes the order and voted against it last year.

Consumer protections advocates, however, long have stressed that the FCC’s privacy rules are increasingly necessary. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, for example, said in February that Republicans’ efforts could “result in years of your private information being at the complete mercy of cable and telephone companies who would face no federal repercussions from monetizing and reselling your personal information without your permission and without your knowledge.”

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.