FCC And Broadband Privacy Rules

The GOP this week is rushing to vote to dismantle FCC rules protecting your privacy in the broadband era, clearly hoping the debate over the Affordable Care Act overshadows the move. The measure will now go to the House of Representatives to be voted on at a to-be-determined date.

The rules would be costly and burdensome, Republicans have claimed, and according to Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), would "make the internet an uneven playing field".

He and other Republicans want a different federal agency, the Federal Trade Commission, to police privacy for both broadband companies like AT&T and internet companies like Google.

The regulations were set to go into effect in February, but were halted by current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. The FCC will soon return broadband privacy policing to the Federal Trade Commission, where it belongs, like all online privacy.

"This legislation will frustrate the FCC's future efforts to protect the privacy of voice and broadband customers", they said.

"At the FCC, consumers are much more protected with strong privacy rules that give (internet service providers) clear rules as to what's fair and what's foul", Dallas Harris, a policy fellow with consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, said last month. But the congressional measure would short-circuit that process and invalidate the rules immediately while also preventing the FCC from issuing privacy regulations in the future that is "substantially the same".

Introduced last October by the Federal Communications Commission, the Broadband Consumer Privacy Rules were created to provide consumers with more control over their data. "Today, 50 members of the U.S. Senate voted to sell their constituents' most personal information to the highest bidder", said Evan Greer, the group's campaign director.

"The FCC privacy rules are just another example of burdensome rules that hurt more than they help", said Sen.

The vote was a major win for the internet service providers who have been pushing the Trump administration to undo rules passed under Tom Wheeler, the FCC's previous chairman.

"It will not change or lessen existing consumer privacy protections", Flake asserted.

Broadband carriers and the ad industry argue that the opt-in consent requirement isn't fair to carriers, given that many other companies - including search engines, social networking services and ad networks - draw on a good deal of Web-browsing data on an opt-out basis. "Meanwhile, the Internet's giant edge providers were exempt despite having access to similar, if not more, consumer data for their commercial use". And since there's no general online privacy law in the United States - and passing one is not exactly topping the agenda of congressional Republicans - it's ability to protect consumers' privacy from broadband providers or web companies is severely limited.

"With less than 10 hours of 'consideration, ' the Senate took the first step to eliminating a rule that put consumers in control of their data online. Moreover, they have released a voluntary set of ISP Privacy Principles that cover transparency, consumer choice, data security and data breach notification and are consistent with the FTC's long-standing framework".

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