Tuesday, March 28, 2017

House Votes to Repeal FCC's Problem-Riddled Privacy Rules

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution to repeal the FCC's restrictive and uneven broadband privacy rules. House Resolution 230 is based on the Congressional Review Act (CRA), and sponsored by Rep. Mike Burgess. The Senate passed a similar resolution on March 23. Presidential approval of the repeal is now expected.
The FCC's broadband privacy rules saddled broadband Internet service providers (ISPs) – but not other online service providers that collect consumer information – with intrusive requirements. The Commission provided no justification for such lopsided rules and such restrictions would have had the effect of reducing available choices for consumers. Significant policy flaws with the Commission's privacy rules were addressed in further detail in several prior Free State Foundation publications listed below. In addition, those rules were legally suspect. The Commission's primary source of claimed authority for adopting them – Section 622 – specifically addressed subscriber information collected exclusively by telephone service providers.

Professor Daniel Lyons, a member of FSF's Board of Academic Advisors, also offered an excellent analysis of the FCC's problematic rules and the way forward in his Perspectives from FSF Scholars paper, "The Right Way to Protect Privacy Throughout the Internet Ecosystem."
Once the Commission's broadband privacy rules are repealed, the agency can adopt a more sensible set of privacy standards that mirror those applied by the Federal Trade Commission. In today's convergent digital marketplace, there is no reason to think that consumers want different online privacy standards to apply to the collection and use of personal information depending simply on whether the service provider is an ISP or "edge" provider. As a follow-up to the CRA repeal of the FCC's broadband privacy rules, Congress should consider legislation to establish the FTC as the common enforcer of a common set of privacy standards for all online service providers.

Prior FSF publications on FCC privacy policy:

Daniel A. Lyons, "The Right Way to Protect Privacy Throughout the Internet Ecosystem," Perspectives from FSF Scholars, Vol. 12, No. 10 (March 24, 2017)
Reply Comments of the Free State Foundation – Petitions for Reconsideration, Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband And Other Telecommunications Services (March 16, 2017).

Michael J. Horney, "FCC Privacy Rules Would Harm Consumers by Creating Barriers for ISP Advertising," Perspectives from FSF Scholars, Vol. 11, No. 28 (August 3, 2016).
Comments of the Free State Foundation, Regarding Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services, (May 31, 2016).

Seth L. Cooper, "FCC's Internet Privacy Power Grab Unsupported by Law," FSF Blog (October 23, 2015).

Randolph J. May and Seth L. Cooper, "Any New Privacy Regime Should Mean An End to FCC Privacy Powers," Perspectives from FSF Scholars, Vol. 7, No. 9 (April 5, 2012).