Published: Fri, March 03, 2017
Markets | By Lucia Cruz

FCC Officially Blocks Part Of ISP Privacy Rule From Taking Effect

"After finally gaining basic privacy protections for broadband providers a year ago, it's outrageous that Chairman Pai will now remove the simple rule that internet service providers must take reasonable data security measures to protect their customers' information", said Chris Lewis, VP at Public Knowledge. It also included any content from unencrypted message that may have been accessible to the service provider.

Pai says robocalls are "the top source of consumer complaints to the FCC" and points out that they're often scams. However, instead of expanding the rules to apply equally to all internet companies, the commission opted to block the rules from going into effect.

"This elimination of basic data security rules gives ISPs a free ride while online services and other edge providers are still required to take reasonable measures to protect their customers' information under the FTC's framework". "We believe that the best way to do that is through a comprehensive and consistent framework". Pai's proposal to halt the operation of the data protection provisions "comes despite the mounting number of data breaches impacting consumers throughout this country", the lawmakers added.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai agrees (he initially voted against the rules) and is calling for an overhaul to find a more uniform approach.

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"After all, Americans care about the overall privacy of their information when they use the internet, and they shouldn't have to be lawyers or engineers to figure out if their information is protected differently depending on which part of the internet holds it", they said. "The action allows the FCC sufficient time to fully analyze the pending petitions for reconsideration and to make informed decisions before any complex and unnecessary rules become effective".

"As service providers, our companies are committed to providing a quality Internet experience that protects the security of personal information, and we will continue to operate with that commitment as the FTC and FCC pursue further action to harmonize online privacy protections".

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. "If a provider simply decides not to adequately protect a customer's information and does not notify them when a breach inevitably occurs, there will be no recompense as a matter of course".

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 rules have been controversial because they establish stricter requirements for broadband and wireless companies than they do for other internet companies, such as Google or Facebook, which also collect user information and are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. No timeline was given for the rollout of the revamped privacy rules.

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