President Donald Trump Signs Off on Killing Internet Privacy Protections

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U.S. President Donald Trump listens as he holds a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

President Donald Trump has signed a repeal of internet privacy rules despite criticism that it threatens to undermine online safety and enable unconstitutional mass surveillance.

The overturning of the Obama-era privacy protections, which was supported by Congress in a March 28 vote, will allow internet providers to share personal information with advertisers and other third parties without consumer consent.

In protest against the decision, internet rights nonprofit Fight for the Future plans to place billboards with the names of the members of Congress who voted to repeal the bill. The group warns that the collection and sharing of personal information puts internet users at risk to hackers and identity thieves, while at the same time expanding the abilities of government surveillance programs.

“Donald Trump said he was going to drain the swamp, but it didn’t take long for the swamp to drain him,” Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said in an emailed statement to Newsweek.

“The only people in the United States who want less internet privacy are CEOs and lobbyists for giant telecom companies who want to rake in money by spying on all of us and selling the private details of our lives to marketing companies.”

Greer also pointed out the irony of Trump expressing outrage about alleged violations of his own privacy while signing legislation that will significantly infringe on the privacy of Americans. (Trump has accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his phones in the run up to the election.)

“President Trump has misjudged his base on this issue,” she added. “No one wants their Internet Service Provider to sell their information without their permission.”

Major providers—including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon—supported the overturning of the internet privacy protections, saying companies like Google and Facebook did not face the same restrictions for how they handle user data.

Privacy advocates argue that the same rules do not apply for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and technology companies because ISPs are fundamental for accessing the internet. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) claims the move will increase competition and make it more fair for internet providers.

“President Trump and Congress have appropriately invalidated one part of the Obama-era plan for regulating the internet,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “Those flawed privacy rules, which never went into effect, were designed to benefit one group of favored companies, not online consumers."