The United State Senate voted today to repeal regulations that forbade an internet service provider from selling users’ data without their permission, representing a victory for Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and other broadband services. Digital advertising and marketing players also probably won—especially if the House of Representatives passes the bill and sends it to pro-business President Donald Trump.
Update: The House passed the resolution on Tuesday. It now goes to Trump, who’s expected to sign it, The Verge reported.
The Data & Marketing Association (DMA, formerly the Direct Marketing Association) was quick to applaud the Senate’s move that would allow ISPs to sell consumers’ web browsing history for advertising and internal marketing.
“This is an important victory for all who benefit from the data-driven marketing economy, including tens of thousands of businesses and nonprofit organizations and hundreds of millions of consumers,” Emmett O’Keefe, the DMA’s advocacy svp, said in a statement. “Consumers understand the value that relevant ads provide, and put the value of the services they get for free on the internet at $1,200 per year.”
Fellow trade group, the Internet and Television Association, also lauded the vote on its website as an important step for “re-establishing a balanced framework that is grounded in the long-standing and successful FTC privacy framework that applies equally to all parties operating online.”
Evan Greer, campaign director of privacy organization Fight for the Future, responded to their statements in an email to Adweek: “It’s no surprise that the industry that stands the most to gain by buying and selling our sensitive personal information is applauding this vote, which strips internet users of basic protections that allow us to use the web safely and privately.”
It was a narrow decision, as 50 Republicans supported the measure while 48 Democrats voted against it. Two Republicans were absent and did not cast a ballot.
Previously, due to Federal Communications Commission rules implemented in October, ISPs had to obtain consumers’ consent before selling or using their data for web history, location, financials, health, etc. That barrier may be going by the wayside.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the regulation created an “uneven playing field, increases complexity, discourages competition, innovation and infrastructure investment.”
Democratic Senator Ed Markey was among the dissenters, saying that the GOP “just made it easier for American’s sensitive information about their health, finances and families to be used, shared and sold to the highest bidder without their permission.”
Privacy groups and tech observers on Twitter, meanwhile, largely agreed with Markey. To call the development—if it’s eventually signed into law by Trump—controversial is probably an understatement.