FCC Delays Data-Security Rule, Begins Dismantling Broadband-Privacy Protections

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Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838

WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 2–1 to stay one of the agency’s broadband-privacy rules adopted in October 2016 and scheduled to take effect tomorrow, March 2. The rule in question merely requires internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to “take reasonable measures” to protect customers’ personal information “from unauthorized use.”

Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly voted to suspend the implementation of this common-sense safeguard. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn issued a dissent noting the cynicism of the majority’s motives in voting down this rule. Chairman Pai issued a separate statement with Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen on their shared goal of reenacting privacy protections at some indefinite point in the future.

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

“Another day, another blow to internet users, struck yet again by the Trump FCC on behalf of the giant media conglomerates that the president’s new chairman is hell-bent on protecting. Today’s decision tells vulnerable populations who are under constant threat of corporate and government surveillance and exploitation that the best they can hope for is leaving the protection of their private information in cable companies’ caring hands.

“Today’s decision delays indefinitely a requirement that broadband internet service providers take reasonable measures to safeguard their customers’ private information. And yet even that mere hint of giving people more power to protect their data is enough to send Chairman Pai scrambling to the ISPs’ aid.

“The press statement announcing the vote falsely claimed that the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order and Title II decision stripped the Federal Trade Commission of jurisdiction over broadband providers. In fact, a recent appellate court case suggested that the FTC had no such jurisdiction to begin with, at least over broadband providers that also happen to offer telephone service.

“Whatever the truth (or lack thereof) in Pai’s excuses, the simple fact is that the FCC’s abdication of its responsibility leaves internet users with no protections today against such broadband providers’ negligence. Pai’s plan as always is to punish people for his own ideological ends while swearing up and down that leaving them wide open to abuse is really for their own good.

“Trump’s FCC and FTC chairs can link arms as they scythe down rules protecting internet users, and claim that they’ll repeal and replace the current framework with something far, far better in the near future. Don’t hold your breath. Today’s vote is yet another sign that the new majority at both commissions will do anything and everything they can to hand over your private data to the country’s biggest cable, telephone and internet gatekeepers, no questions asked.”

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