US government set to roll back FCC data privacy laws in new bill

UK data law has often been about balancing privacy against security agencies’ concerns. In the US, however, the prospect of data ending up with third parties is what’s now causing a stir. Many of us are worried about others knowing our Google habits, but a new proposed bill in the US would roll back internet regulations and possibly open the door to a third-party sell-off.

The bill has been put forward by Republican senator Jeff Flake – last seen asking an incoming supreme court justice whether he’d prefer to fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses. He argues that current laws unfairly burden service providers over giants such as Google or Facebook. Flake’s proposed bill – if passed by the Senate and President Trump – would mean US citizens need to opt out in order to prevent their data being sold off.

Currently, US consumer data privacy is overseen by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission – you may remember them from Family Guy). Under the proposed laws the FCC’s consumer-privacy protection would be completely stripped back.

The bill is ringing alarm bells for several Democrats who feel it would be an attack on consumer rights. They say it would favour companies such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon over American citizens. Part of the concern has come from the type of data these companies have access to. Browsing data is up for grabs, but the FCC claims they also have access to geographic data, health info or social security numbers (NI numbers to you and me). That means that anyone with this data could paint a strong picture of a web user.

The bill is another move by Trump and senate Republicans to tear down Obama-era legislation. Just three months in, Republicans have already relaxed laws preventing the mentally ill purchasing firearms. They have lifted laws stopping coal-mining operations from dumping waste into waterways. And a third regulation that required energy giants to disclose financial donations to foreign governments has gone out the window. What regulation will be next Trump? Perhaps long-haul truck driving?

Images: Picture credit to Dion Hinchcliffe under creative commons

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