House votes to block Obama-era online privacy rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has voted to block online privacy regulations issued during the final months of the Obama administration.

It's the first step toward allowing internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to sell the browsing habits of their customers.

The Federal Communications Commission rule was designed to give consumers greater control over how internet service providers share information. But critics say the rule adds costs, stifles innovation and picks winners and losers among internet companies.

The House voted 215-205 to reject the rule. The legislation now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Internet companies like Google don't have to ask users' permission before tracking what sites they visit. Republicans and industry groups have blasted that discrepancy, saying it was unfair and confusing for consumers.

Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican, voted against the bill that rejects the rule.

“Today, I voted against S.J. Res. 34, the disapproval of FCC rules relating to ISP customers’ privacy protections. I believe the privacy of my constituents, and other internet users, is an issue where the government needs to tread very carefully,” he said in a statement.

“I do not believe we should permit private corporations to take advantage of our information for their use and profit. The right to privacy is embedded in the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and as a person who tries to honor our constitution, I chose to oppose the resolution as a reaffirmation in my belief in our founding document.”

Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, with American Civil Liberties Union-Colorado, spoke out against the bill Tuesday ahead of the House vote.

“That information can be sold to advertisers, can be sold to insurance companies; it can be sold to law enforcement and to government agencies and can be used in all sorts of different ways,” said Woodliff-Stanley.

Colorado lawmakers like Congressman Ed Perlmutter and Rep. Jared Polis oppose the bill.  Polis released a statement saying, “Lawmakers who voted in favor of this bill just sold out the American people to special interests.”

Sen. Cory Gardner voted in favor of the bill when it was in the Senate. Gardner released the following statement: "Nothing in this repeal of the FCC’s rules takes away from the FCC’s ability to police privacy violations committed by the internet service providers.”

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