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Trump has officially ended federal online privacy rules

Internet providers will not have to ask permission before sharing sensitive data with advertisers.

President Trump Signs Executive Orders Regarding Trade Olivier Douliery / Getty

President Donald Trump on Monday officially hit the delete button on federal privacy protections imposed last year on the likes of AT&T, Charter, Comcast* and Verizon.

Trump quietly signed into law a bill that blocks the implementation of rules that would have required those internet providers to ask permission before selling sensitive customer data, like web-browsing histories, to advertisers and other third parties, the White House confirmed.

The move amounts to a major blow to privacy groups like the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which had backed the Federal Communications Commission and its efforts under former Chairman Tom Wheeler and his boss, former President Barack Obama. And it’s a major win for the telecom industry, which saw the rules as unfair and burdensome.

Many telecom companies also objected because tech companies like Facebook and Google would not have been affected by the rules.

“Consumers deserve and expect one consistent set of online privacy protections and this action helps clear the way for a more uniform approach across the entire internet ecosystem,” said Jonathan Spalter, the CEO of USTelecom, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group for the industry, in a statement.

Some telecom companies, however, insisted they would protect consumers’ personal information anyway — and chalked doubts up to their opponents.

Bob Quinn, a senior executive vice president at AT&T, struck a defiant tone in a blog post Friday, slamming privacy groups for ignoring “facts.”

“If the government believes that location data is sensitive and requires more explicit consumer disclosures and permissions,” he continued, “then those protections should apply to all players that have access to location data, whether an ISP or edge player or search engine.”

* Comcast, via its NBCU unit, is a minority investor in Vox Media, which owns this site.

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