Republicans have taken the first step to invalidate the Federal Communication Commission’s broadband privacy rules.
The move comes less than one week after new FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, put on hold the rules that would force companies like AT&T, Comcast or Verizon to obtain consent from their subscribers before sharing their data with paying third-parties. The rules, which were to take effect last week, were championed by his predecessor, former chairman Tom Wheeler.
Some members of Congress want to see those rules abolished altogether. Sen. Jeff Flake, (R-Az.), introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to repeal the rules that would have made Internet service providers (ISPs) notify customers of the types of information they collect, explain how and for what purpose the data is collected and identify with whom they share the data.
If Flake’s resolution is passed, it would prevent the FCC from writing a new set of privacy rules.
The senator’s office said the resolution “would not change or lessen existing consumer privacy regulations,” rather it would prevent the FCC from expanding its regulatory jurisdiction and imposing “prescriptive data restrictions” on broadband providers.
“The FCC’s midnight regulation does nothing to protect consumer privacy. It is unnecessary, confusing and adds yet another innovation-stifling regulation to the Internet,” Flake said in a press release. “My resolution is the first step toward restoring the FTC’s light-touch, consumer-friendly approach. It will not change or lessen existing consumer privacy protections. It empowers consumers to make informed choices on if and how their data can be shared.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said if the appeal is successful, there will no longer be a federal watchdog for Internet privacy.
“Records of your online activity reveal a tremendous amount about you. While that kind of data is currently protected by federal rules, some members of Congress are trying to repeal those rules so your broadband provider can sell your sensitive Internet activity records to the highest bidder,” the EFF said in a statement.
“The FCC put in place critical broadband privacy protection rules late last year to protect your right to privacy online. Now, some members of Congress are looking to completely erase those rules and let your Internet service provider sell information about what you look at, what your purchase, and who you talk to online.”
A number of consumer groups are asking the FCC to keep the privacy rules in place.
“Before the Internet was developed, consumers relied on the law to protect their privacy and the security of their correspondence through the mail, telegram, and telephone,” Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America said in papers filed with the FCC this week. “Consumers should not have less privacy and security just because our systems of communication have evolved to include the internet,” Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America say in papers filed with the FCC late Monday.”
American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst Jay Stanley called the FCC’s October vote in favor of the news rules a major win for privacy, but said at the time he fully expected the ISPs to fight the order.
Looks like his prediction is coming true.