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Collins, Poliquin vote to repeal internet privacy protections

Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin (Official Congressional photos)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WGME) — Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin joined their Republican colleagues in Congress in voting to repeal the FCC’s landmark internet privacy protections, which were set to take effect at the end of the year.

Independent Sen. Angus King and Democrat Rep. Chellie Pingree voted against the resolution.

If President Donald Trump signs the legislation as expected, the company you pay for internet access will be allowed to monitor your online activities, without permission, and sell things like your web browsing history.

The FCC rule would have prevented internet providers from using data on customer web and app habits for advertising without their consent.

“The vote in Congress to repeal the broadband privacy rules, allowing internet service providers to spy on their customers and sell their data without consent, is a terrible setback for the American public,” said Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at Consumer Federation of America.

In a statement to CBS 13, Congressman Poliquin defended his vote.

“The reality is this FCC rule creates a misleading sense of security for users. Creating rules enforced by the FCC would apply regulations to only a specific segment of the industry, while giving an unequal advantage and preference to a handful of companies who wouldn’t be under their jurisdiction,” said Congressman Poliquin in a statement.

Google and Facebook do not have similar restrictions on tracking and selling data to third parties, which has become an online advertising market worth more than $80 billion, according to an ad spending forecast from eMarketer.

“The Internet should remain a level playing field where consumers are protected consistently across the web, while preventing gaps in consumer protection from being created by any new privacy rules,” Poliquin said.

Privacy advocates argue consumers can stop using sites if they don’t agree with their privacy policies. They say it’s much more difficult to choose a different internet service provider.

“We don’t even have the right to opt-out of that data being used or shared for purposes beyond what is necessary to provide us with the service. Furthermore, many Americans don’t have a have a choice of broadband internet service providers. It’s an unfair, take it or leave it situation,” Grant said.

Sen. Collins' communications director Annie Clark said the rule was inconsistent, putting more restrictions on internet service providers than websites like Google and Facebook.

"This inconsistency created confusion for consumers, competitive disadvantages for internet service providers, and limited broadband innovation without ensuring privacy for internet users," Clark said.

Clark went on to call the rule misguided and said Sen. Collins "looks forward to Internet privacy rules that apply consistently to all providers."

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