The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) potential reversal of the Obama Administration’s ‘Net Neutrality’ rules have been a constant headline lately. Most media coverage goes to the core principals of net neutrality, including blocking, throttling and pay for priority of internet content; however, privacy is also a factor.
Primarily, the FCC issued broadband privacy rules in 2016 after its 2015 net neutrality rules. The broadband privacy rules amongst other things, required websites and internet service providers (ISPs) to use an opt-in system to share or sell customer’s personal information like web history data, app usage data, etc. The FCC’s ability to enforce such rules hinged on a major component of the net neutrality rules which designated ISPs as common carriers and allowed the FCC to apply Title II of the Communications Act to ISPs.
While net neutrality is currently on the potential chopping block, the FCC under the Trump Administration already reversed their 2016 broadband privacy rules back in April before they even took effect. If the FCC also reverses net neutrality and the common carrier designation of ISPs, oversight of ISPs would fall on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Currently the FTC is far less stringent than the FCC rules regarding privacy and allows the online advertising industry to use a self-regulated opt-out system for sharing and selling customers’ personal data.