The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to repeal regulations requiring internet service providers to do more to protect customers' privacy than websites like Google or Facebook.
The White House said earlier Tuesday that President Donald Trump strongly supports the repeal of the rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission in October under then-President Barack Obama.
Under the rules, internet providers would need to obtain consumer consent before using precise geolocation, financial information, health information, children's information and web browsing history for advertising and marketing. The rules haven't yet gone into effect. So if President Donald Trump signs the measure, as the White House has indicated he will, the status quo will remain. For now, phone and cable companies remain subject to federal law that imposes on broadband providers a "duty to protect the confidentiality" of customer information and restricts them from using some customer data without "approval."
The digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation suggests you might pay to use a virtual private network , which funnels your internet traffic through a secure connection that your provider can't see into. But good VPNs aren't free, you have to figure out which ones you can trust, and unless you go to the trouble of setting one up on your home router - not a straightforward task - you would need to set them up on every phone, tablet and computer in your home.
Last week, the Senate voted to reverse the rules in a win for AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications.
The White House said internet providers would need to obtain affirmative "opt-in" consent from consumers to use and share certain information, but noted that websites are not required to get the same consent. "This results in rules that apply very different regulatory regimes based on the identity of the online actor," the White House said.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai in a statement praised the decision of Congress to overturn "privacy regulations designed to benefit one group of favored companies over another group of disfavored companies."