Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., introduced a bill that passed the Senate Thursday overruling the Federal Communications Commission's regulations on Internet data mining. The legislation allows Internet service providers to collect and sell customers' web browsing history. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
March 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to block regulations by the Federal Communications Commission that prohibited Internet service providers from collecting and selling customers' web usage data.
The vote was 50-48, largely along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.
Privacy groups criticized the Senate bill, saying Americans should have a right to use the Internet without fear corporations are tracking what they search and view.
Proponents said the FCC regulations subjected ISPs to more stringent rules than popular websites like Google and Facebook, which regularly track users' web history in an effort to make web advertising more effective.
The FCC regulations did not outlaw data collection, but required service providers to ask customers' permission before doing so.
The legislation has yet to pass the House.
"This resolution is a vote for big corporate profits over the rights and civil liberties of average people," Nathan White, senior legislative manager at the Internet advocacy group Access Now, told the International Business Times. "The House of Representatives must now stand up for consumers and against the CRA resolution to throw away Internet privacy protections."
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who sponsored the bill, said the FCC regulations were a "bureaucratic power grab."
"Passing this ... will send a powerful message that federal agencies can't unilaterally restrict constitutional rights and expect to get away with it," Flake said.