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After Buffalo, Media and Tech Can’t Look Away Any Longer

This tragedy should be a catalyst to a fundamental reckoning.
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WASHINGTON — On Friday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced plans to sidestep the agency’s procedures to prevent implementation of part of the FCC’s landmark broadband-privacy rules.

An agency spokesman announced Pai’s intention to halt the rules’ data-security portion, which require that broadband providers take “reasonable measures” to protect their customers’ information. This provision was due to to take effect on March 2.

The FCC passed the broadband-privacy rules in 2016 under the leadership of then-Chairman Tom Wheeler. The rules require that broadband ISPs get their customers’ permission before selling their private information — like web-browsing histories — to advertisers and other third parties. They also require that ISPs inform customers about what they’re collecting and who they’re selling this information to.

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

“Chairman Pai’s suspension of the data-security rules under the broadband-privacy order show his clear intention to undermine the broadband-privacy rules in their entirety. Despite the rules’ passage in a 3–2 vote, Pai has elected to suspend these orders on his own authority, showing his disregard both for agency procedures and for consumers whose private information is left more vulnerable.

“It's relevant that Pai is staying whatever rules he can before they take effect. What he’s doing today with regard to internet users’ privacy protections is a clear signal that he intends to reverse every other protection in due time, if he can.

“It’s also a tragedy that Chairman Pai is willing to ignore his own statutory mandate and delay common-sense rules that protect internet users from cable-company abuse while pretending that he's just chasing after a more comprehensive privacy law that’s outside of his agency’s congressional jurisdiction. Like his supposed love for transparency, his love for the rule of law has proved pretty hollow since Trump named him chair.

“The race-to-the-bottom mentality that Pai espouses may play well to the industries supporting him, but people will understand that his fake promise of better rules tomorrow just means stripping away all protections today.”

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