Congress repeals FCC privacy rules, but what does it mean for me?

Categories: Information Security

Last month the US Congress passed legislation, subsequently signed into law by the president, that repeals rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last October. But what has changed? Why is there outrage about this new privacy bill?! Why should I care?

In October 2016 the FCC adopted rules regarding Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and consumer privacy. Under those rules, ISPs would have been required to get your explicit consent before sharing or selling your information, such as geolocation, browsing history, and financial information to third-parties for advertising and marketing. The rules would have also required ISPs to tell you what information they collect and how it is being used or shared.

Even though these rules were never enacted, this most recent bill (now law) uses the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that allows Congress and the president to overturn recently passed agency regulations. The CRA also prevents the agency from passing the same or similar rules in the future.

Supporters of the bill to repeal the FCC’s rules believe that the power to regulate your data lies with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), who already oversees websites and online advertising. They also believe that the FCC’s rules would have placed ISPs on unequal footing with web companies like Google or Facebook, who collect data from its users as well and are not bound by the agency’s rules.

Opponents of the bill believe that you, as a consumer, should be allowed to know how your data is being collected and shared, as well as be able to deny ISPs from selling or sharing any of your personal information. They also believe that the current privacy policies and rules under the FTC are unacceptable and outdated.

It is unclear if the FTC will update its rules on internet privacy and the trade of personal information, but several states are already looking to pass laws to protect its resident’s privacy. States like Minnesota, Kansas, and a handful of others are pushing legislation in the future hoping to strengthen internet and data privacy rights for consumers at the state level.

But one thing is for sure: under the current FTC regulations, all broadband companies are required to have a privacy policy that you sign or agree to when paying for internet service. Feel free to contact your ISP if you cannot find a copy of their privacy policy online.

Links to other articles covering this issue:

The Hill



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