Recently, the new administration and the majority GOP Congress introduced a new law that would repeal the FCC Privacy Laws passed under the Obama administration. It has already passed the Senate and is now on its way to the House of Representatives to be made from a bill to a law.
From the inception of the internet until 2015, the Federal Trade Commission held the power to set the rules and regulations for internet service providers, but in 2015, the power transitioned over to the FCC. Once a court decided that the FCC had the sole authority to legislate rules for internet providers, they enacted much steeper and more demanding rules that mimic affirmative consent laws. That is, rather than a user having to opt out of allowing their data to be sold, they would have to opt in.
As it presently stands, no single entity has access to the “whole picture” of your browsing habits. That is, google knows only when you’re on google, but not when you’re on facebook or some other site. The Obama-era privacy rules that have yet to be fully implemented are meant to protect individual citizens’ privacy by preventing any company, specifically your internet provider, from collecting and selling that “whole picture” of where and how you spend your time on the internet.
Internet providers want to be able to collect, analyze, and sell your browsing history to the likes of advertisers for a finite sum of money, and at the moment, they can only do so with expressed permission from the producer of the data. Heretofore, the US has protected consumers’ data, but the law that is now before the House of Representatives would roll back all the laws that prohibit internet providers from putting consumer data up for auction.
The ACLU and democrats have expressed concern that the repealing of the privacy rules will open the floodgates for advertisements to run amok and for massive security breaches. Internet providers do not have incredible strong protection around their users’ data to begin with, and making the storage and sale of data fair game could open huge internet service providers up for huge data breaches.
Conservatives, though, feel that the restrictions are too financially burdensome to the service providers and want to reduce the regulations of the market. The right has expressed heightened concern about the swelling power that unelected members of agencies are able to wield with little accountability. To them, the FCC’s new rules for internet service providers were a gross overreach of power. Lobbyists have also noted that google and facebook already collect and sell user data, but under the present rules, the two behemoths are exempt because they’re private businesses, not service providers.
If the law passes, not only would the privacy of user data be at risk, but one of the law’s provisions stipulates that there is no way that the FCC could even reinstate such rules at a later time. Notable names in big data, data privacy, and internet policy have brought different points to the table, but the representatives and the president have the ultimate say. As always, if you feel strongly one way or the other, call your representative and express your opinions and concerns.