Published: Fri, March 03, 2017
Markets | By Terence Owen

The FCC Just Blocked Privacy Protections For Comcast And Verizon Customers


The Federal Communications Commission has approved a proposal from chairman Ajit Pai to suspend part of the ISP privacy regulations passed a year ago before they come into effect on 02 March.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced Wednesday that it is halting a set of privacy rules that would have required Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to more responsibly handle customers' sensitive data. The stay does not address those rules that became effective earlier this year as well as those that are scheduled to become effective later this year.

A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote on Wednesday prevented stricter consumer privacy protections for internet providers from becoming law. They would have subjected broadband internet service providers to more stringent data security requirements than websites like Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc or Alphabet Inc's Google unit.

The rules, which were scheduled to take effect on Thursday, aimed to protect personal consumer data. The FTC has a long track record of protecting consumers' privacy and security throughout the Internet ecosystem.

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai agrees (he initially voted against the rules) and is calling for an overhaul to find a more uniform approach. It also included any content from unencrypted message that may have been accessible to the service provider.

"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. "This stay will allow the FCC and the FTC to take the appropriate time to harmonize any FCC privacy rules with the FTC's framework and allow innovative small businesses to focus on what they do best - serving their customers - rather than complying with undue, inconsistent regulatory requirements". He acknowledged concerns that an absence of privacy rules may leave Americans exposed, but, he said, "It does not serve consumers' interests to create two distinct frameworks-one for Internet service providers and one for all other online companies".

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. "This Order is but a proxy for gutting the Commission's duly adopted privacy rules - and it does so with very little finesse", she said. "What it actually does is permit providers to shift the costs for corporate negligence onto private citizens", she wrote. Acting FTC Chair Maureen Ohlhausen - who had until now remained mum on the topic - today applauded the stay in a joint statement with Pai. "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".

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