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New Browser Act would restore restrictions on sharing browsing history

In April, the Senate voted to roll back the FCC’s internet privacy rules, clearing the way for internet service providers to share browsing histories with third-party advertisers — and provoking a significant backlash along the way. Now, one of the leading forces for the April push has introduced a new bill that could restore some of those restrictions, while adding new ones for web services like Facebook and Google.

Titled the BROWSER Act (Balancing the Rights of Web Surfers Equally and Responsibly), the bill requires opt-in consent for the sharing of all sensitive user information, including web histories. But while the FCC rules only had jurisdiction over telecoms, the BROWSER Act’s rules would apply equally to telecoms and web companies, forcing companies like Comcast and Google to play by the same data-sharing rules or face penalty from the FTC.

The bill would also prevent lower levels of government from passing stricter privacy rules, a practice that’s already drawn support in some cities and states.

Notably, the bill was introduced by Martha Blackburn (R-TN), who also introduced the bill to repeal the FCC rules in April. Blackburn told Axios that her motivation was to bring web companies (also called edge providers) under the same rules as telecoms

“What we know is that when people talk about, ‘I don’t like pop ups that I get, and I don’t like this and I don’t like that,’ that’s activity that comes from the edge providers, not the ISPs,” the Senator said.

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