dglobalnews.com US FCC blocks stricter broadband privacy rules from taking effect
Published: Fri, March 03, 2017
Markets | By Armando Jensen

US FCC blocks stricter broadband privacy rules from taking effect

In a 2-1 vote that went along party lines, the US communications agency voted this week to kill a part of the privacy regulations passed previous year.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced Wednesday that it is halting a set of privacy rules that would have required Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to more responsibly handle customers' sensitive data. The stay on the data security provision will remain in place until the FCC can rule on the petitions for reconsideration.

In October, Republican commissioners including Pai said the rules unfairly gave websites the ability to harvest more data than service providers and dominate digital advertising. The stay does not address those rules that became effective earlier this year as well as those that are scheduled to become effective later this year.

"The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission are committed to protecting the online privacy of American consumers".

When the FCC passed its landmark net neutrality rules two years ago this week, it reclassified internet service providers as common carriers.

The FCC's new chair, Ajit Pai, said that the data security rules are an unfair requirement for internet providers.

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The data security regulations were the first of the new broadband privacy rules passed by the FCC under former chairman Tom Wheeler.

The piece of the rule now on hold has to do with how your ISP has to protect your data, and how and when it has to disclose to you if it's hacked, breached, stolen, or otherwise illicitly accessed. And she said consumers would be left vulnerable.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the sole Democrat on the commission, blasted the vote on Wednesday, issuing a dissent. While these web companies have their own privacy policies, and are bound by a patchwork of state laws that mandate data breach notification, no comprehensive federal law exists that provides a national baseline for their privacy and data security practices.

Included in that agenda is a notice of proposed rulemaking that would allow phone service providers to block calls from "spoofed" numbers, which disguise the source of certain robocalls. "All actors in the online space should be subject to the same rules, enforced by the same agency". But critics said that it would have set up different requirements than privacy rules issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

That ruling means the FTC can not actually regulate ISPs, despite the wish of FCC leadership to leave the other agency in charge of issuing privacy rules.

However, some in Congress aim to repeal the FCC's privacy rules in their entirety, while weakening the FTC's authority, said Chris Lewis, vice president of public interest group Public Knowledge. "The same agency that should be the "cop on the beat" when it comes to ensuring appropriate consumer protections is leaving broadband customers without assurances that their providers will keep their data secure", she said in a statement.

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