The “weed whacking” has begun. Last week, the new Federal Communications Chairman, Ajit Pai, led a 2-1 vote in favor of staying a part of privacy rules passed in 2016 that not only would’ve required that Internet service providers take “reasonable” steps to protect consumer data, but also would’ve given consumers the right to decide the fate of their data.
Per a Computerworld report, under the rules, Internet service providers were required to conduct reasonable data security practices and provide data breach notification requirements. They were also required to obtain consumers’ “opt-in” consent to use and share sensitive information (geolocation, web browsing history) and give the option to opt out from the sharing of non-sensitive information (email addresses, service tier information). Such rules and regulations, claimed providers, unfairly created burdens and costs on them that search engines and social networks didn’t have to shoulder.
Furthermore, in a joint statement last week, Pai and Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen, asserted that the FTC should have jurisdiction over providers’ privacy and data security practices, not the FCC. Per WIRED, this “signaled a seeming intention to jettison the privacy rules as well before they take effect later this year.”
Per WIRED’s detailed timeline, the FTC had jurisdiction over protecting Internet privacy until 2015, when the FCC reclassified Internet service providers as utility-like “common carriers,” which empowered the FCC to enforce net neutrality rules banning providers from discriminating against or favoring particular websites or apps. After a 2015 court decision, the FCC started the work of creating stricter privacy rules, which would ban the selling of consumers’ data without their permission. With the FCC’s 2-1 vote, as Wired notes, little stands in the way of providers from selling consumers’ personal information.