As was expected, President Trump signed into law the rescinding of the broadband privacy regulations adopted in 2016 by the Obama administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The now rescinded regulations would have required internet service providers (ISPs) to obtain consent from a customer before using or selling the customer’s Web browsing history, app usage history, precise geolocation, financial information, health information and children’s information for advertising purposes. We previously discussed the legislation and the regulations, about two weeks ago.
While these regulations have been repealed, it doesn’t mean the debate over them has ended. The Trump administration’s FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen praised the repeal of the FCC broadband privacy regulations in a recent op-ed in the Washington Post entitled “No Republicans didn’t just strip away your internet privacy rights” The Chairmen maintain that now ISPs will be regulated by the FTC under the same privacy standards as content providers and search engines which are governed largely by the concepts of notice, choice, access and security and subject to the FTC’s enforcement against unfair and deceptive trade practices. Additionally, the Chairmen argue that consumers have choices between broadband providers and therefore can choose the provider who more closely aligns with the consumer’s privacy preferences. Privacy advocates would and have disagreed, arguing that the very limited competition in any particular geographic area gives ISPs little incentive to offer consumers an opt-out of having their web browsing history and other information used or sold.
The debate is also moving to the state level. In Minnesota, the legislature is considering bills that would amend existing law to require a resident’s express written approval before an ISP can use or share personal information from the use of Internet or telecommunications services. Nevada already has such legislation in place. Other states are looking at adopting similar measures which would apply to the residents of that state.