Week ahead in tech: FCC privacy rules on the ropes

Cyber war has a new weapon: Your smartphone
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The House could vote as early as the coming week to eliminate the Federal Communications Commission’s 2016 broadband privacy rules.

The rules are already on the ropes after the Senate on Thursday passed a resolution to repeal them.

Republicans are using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) authority to dismantle the regulations and prohibit the FCC from passing anything similar in the future. 

If passed and signed by President Trump, it would be only the fifth successful CRA resolution — and the fourth during Trump’s administration alone.

The FCC’s privacy rules would have required internet service providers to obtain permission from consumers before using their “sensitive” data – such as browsing history, app usage and medical and financial information — for advertising.

{mosads}The CRA resolution, introduced by by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), passed the Senate 50 to 48 in a party-line vote, and is expected to sail through the House as well, as early as this upcoming week.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, has offered a resolution to eliminate the privacy rules in the House.

The move to eliminate the rules has been widely condemned by Democrats and consumer and privacy advocates, who say that the public will be left vulnerable to intrusive advertisers.

Republicans and industry groups on the other hand say that the regulations were too onerous and costly, and subjected service providers like AT&T and Comcast to tougher rules than websites like Facebook and Google, which are free to collect user data for targeted ads.

All eyes will also be on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who will be doing a Q&A at a policy conference hosted by the NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association on Monday.

The new Republican chairman has been off to a fast start, working to dismantle a number of Obama-era initiatives and rules.

On Thursday, the FCC held its March open meeting, where Pai also took action on a number of new priorities.

The commission voted to crack down on robocalls from fraudulent numbers and to make it easier for corrections officials to find contraband phones in prisons.

Lawmakers will have a busy week ahead with several technology-focused hearings.

On Tuesday, the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on efforts to secure federal networks from cyber attacks.

On Wednesday the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on closing the domestic skills gap for technical jobs.

The Committee will also hold a nomination hearing for Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Jeffrey Rosen.

On the House side, the Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing about self-driving cars on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, that same committee will take up a hearing on “next-generation 911” services. The hearing comes in the wake of AT&T’s nationwide 911 outage earlier this month.

FCC officials revealed on Thursday that over 12,000 AT&T customers were unable to call 911 last week when the company experienced an outage last week.

Tags Jeff Flake Marsha Blackburn

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