Why it matters to you
The recent voting against the FCC’s privacy rules had nothing to do with enabling the use of user data by third parties, but preventing two independent government agencies from regulating the same privacy issue.
In the next step to “tame” what is now considered as an overreaching Federal Communications Commission, the House voted to nuke privacy rules created by the independent agency that regulated an internet service provider’s use and sale of subscriber data. The decision follows one made by the Senate last week, which narrowly voted to repeal the privacy rules.
Several organizations contacted Digital Trends just after the House vote became public calling the government “racist” because eliminating the FCC’s privacy rules would have a huge impact on people of different nationalities and skin color. But as we pointed out in the report regarding the original House decision, the Trump administration is simply working to keep the FCC from stepping outside its regulatory jurisdiction.
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To be more specific, Congress is making sure an independent agency of the United States government isn’t imposing rules that go beyond its regulation “allowance.” When the “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services” rules were passed in October, the FCC was mostly ruled by the Democratic party. Now the Republicans are in control and want to put a leash on the agency.
The FCC set rules in place forcing ISPs to provide opt-in/opt-out options regarding the use of personal subscriber data by third-party companies. This essentially prevented ISPs from making quick cash selling the mountains of sensitive data they collect, such as a user’s current health symptoms, their peak activities, and so on. The rules also forced ISPs to provide data breach notifications, transparency, and more.
On the broadband front, the mission of the FCC is to provide regulatory policies so that Americans have access to affordable and robust products and services. As stated in Section One of the Communications Act of 1934, these policies aim to provide “neutrality, competition, investment, and innovation.”
Thus, the two parts of Congress believe the FCC stepped outside its regulatory boundary and is using the Congressional Review Act of 1996 to repeal the federal regulation. Now that Congress as a whole moved to repeal the FCC’s “overstepping” rules, President Donald Trump will likely sign the death certificate.
However, the Trump Administration stated on Tuesday that it specifically supports shutting down the Commission’s rule titled “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunication Services.” Even more, the White House explicitly explained why the FCC rules are shutting down.
“The rule departs from the technology-neutral framework for online privacy administered by the Federal Trade Commission,” the White House said. “This results in rules that apply very different regulatory regimes based on the identity of the online actor.”
Despite prior fears that user privacy is coming to an end, preventing ISPs from selling your private data is already handled by the FTC. What’s now going on in Washington is a simple case preventing two independent government agencies from regulating the same privacy issue. Your data, according to the FTC, is safe from the highest bidder.