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Honorable Mark Sanford

Representing the 1st District of South Carolina

Vote Notes: FCC Internet Privacy Rule

Mar 30, 2017
Blog Post

Tuesday evening, the House passed S.J. Res. 34, a bill that would repeal a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule requiring internet service providers to get your explicit permission before using and sharing your confidential information. This includes things ranging from social security numbers to information on your children. The bill passed by a vote of 215-205. I was but one of 15 Republicans to vote against the bill and would like to explain why I thought it was important to do so.

Each one of the rights enshrined in the Constitution are fragile. Without active and constant defense, seemingly unimportant things chip away at what the founding fathers set up in freedom being the hallmark of the American experiment. This was a vote about pushing back at one of those seemingly innocuous things creeping in and taking from us a building block of freedom.

The fourth amendment insures: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

And that’s what this vote came down to.

Should you - or should the company through which you get internet service - be the decision maker in determining whether your information can be sold? Are you given the direct choice to waive the right of determining this or are you not?

With this vote I said it should be you.

The FCC rule simply applies this notion to your online privacy by putting the decision over the use of confidential information back in the the hands of the customer. So, when the government blocks a rule intended to solidify this fundamental cornerstone, as it did yesterday, it effectively chips away at it.

On this theme civil liberty is a fundamental part of liberty. In the age of terrorism and the internet, it tends to be a component of liberty that people focus less on….but we do this at our own peril. The founding fathers actually took the time to enumerate this right. They saw it as just as important as the right to free speech, or the right to bear arms...and accordingly I think we should to. Because where one right is corroded, I would argue it becomes easier to weaken others.

Its for this reason that in just the past couple years I voted for and co-sponsored the Email Privacy Act twice. I voted against the USA Freedom Act multiple times because it didn’t go far enough to reign in bulk data collection under the Patriot Act. And, this January, I introduced the REAL ID Privacy Protection Act to strip the REAL ID law of its privacy-compromising provisions.

I was disappointed when I learned that the House would be voting on the bill to block the FCC’s rule, and some even tried to portray it as a jurisdictional issue between the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. But this issue at the core had much bigger implications, which is why I voted as I did.