Republican FCC: Future of Broadband Privacy

Republican FCC: Future of Broadband Privacy

New privacy rules that protect the Web browsing data of broadband subscribers went into effect on January 3, 2017, but they could be overturned under recently appointed Republican FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai. Former Chairman Tom Wheeler, a strong proponent of the broadband privacy rules, stepped down on January 20 — as is customary once a new administration takes power.

The new broadband privacy rules that apply to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) make it possible for customers to shield personal information such as browsing histories and location data from disclosure to third parties without explicit consent.

But the new privacy rules may shatter under the opposition by the Republican-led FCC and ISPs, who are concerned about lost revenues. An association of ISPs recently filed a petition to have onerous new privacy rules repealed. They say the FCC overstepped its boundaries in forcing ISPs to seek our consent before using or sharing the data they collect. They claim the rules disregard the regulations already in place by the FTC, infringe on First Amendment rights for internet providers, and establish rules that can lead to customer confusion. Opponents of the privacy rules also point out that the FCC’s regulation created an imbalance: while ISPs have to obey these rules, web companies, like Google and Facebook, do not.

Back in October 2016, when the new rules were adopted, then still a Commissioner, Ajit Pai expressed his disagreement with the rules: “Online consumers should and do have a uniform expectation of privacy. That expectation should be reflected in uniform regulation of all companies in the Internet ecosystem.” Therefore, the FCC is expected to roll back the broadband privacy rules in the near future.