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Trump Signs Measure to Let ISPs Sell Your Data Without Consent

Privacy activists launched a last-ditch effort to persuade Trump to veto the measure, but the White House had already said the president favored it.
IMAGE: Cellphone

President Donald Trump signed legislation Monday killing privacy rules that would have required internet service providers to get your explicit consent before they share or sell your web browsing history and other sensitive information.

The rules were approved in the final months of President Barack Obama's administration but hadn't taken effect yet. Under the bill Trump signed Monday, they never will — and the FCC isn't allowed to try to pass new rules.

Privacy activists, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, launched a last-ditch effort to persuade Trump to veto the measure, but the White House had already said last week that the president favored it.

The new law preserves a two-track regulatory system that treats internet service providers — the companies that connect you to the internet, which are overseen by the FCC — differently from web-based companies like Google and Facebook, which are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.

Related: How Can You Keep Your Searches Private?

The rules passed last year, by what was then a Democratic majority on the FCC, would have required ISPs to ask you explicitly to "opt in" to letting them share personal information. On web-based ad networks, data sharing is usually turned on by default and you have to dig through menus and settings to opt out of it.

ISPs argued that the Obama-era regulations would have put them at a disadvantage — and the White House agreed.

"The rule departs from the technology-neutral framework for online privacy administered by the Federal Trade Commission," the White House said. "This results in rules that apply very different regulatory regimes based on the identity of the online actor."

Broadband providers, meanwhile, said consumers had no reason to worry.

"We do not sell our broadband customers' individual web browsing history," Comcast said in a statement last week. "We did not do it before the FCC's rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so."

(NBC News is a division of NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable provider.)

Similarly, Verizon said in a statement: "Verizon does not sell the personal web browsing history of our customers. We don't do it and that's the bottom line."