Public Knowledge Opposes FCC's Stay of Data Security Regulation from Privacy Rules

Posted March 03, 2017

Specifically, it issued a temporary stay of a data security regulation that would have subjected internet service providers to a different standard than that applied to other companies in the internet industry by the Federal Trade Commission.

The stay on the rule will be in effect until "the Commission is able to act on pending petitions for reconsideration".

When the FCC voted a year ago to adopt the rule, then-FTC chair Edith Ramirez voiced her support for it, saying that the FCC's rule "will provide robust privacy protections, including protecting sensitive information such as consumers' social security numbers, precise geolocation data, and content of communications, and requiring reasonable data security practices".

When asked for the FCC's reaction to Schumer's inquiry, agency spokesman Neil Grace on Wednesday issued a statement to Newsday saying the chairman "is very concerned about the bomb threats being made to Jewish Community Centers across our country".

The decision followed the reclassification of broadband as a telecom service under the FCC's net neutrality rules, which were also opposed by Pai.

"We still believe that jurisdiction over broadband providers' privacy and data security practices should be returned to the FTC, the nation's expert agency with respect to these important subjects".

The data security regulations were the first of the new broadband privacy rules passed by the FCC under former chairman Tom Wheeler. "It creates a huge gap in consumer protections where websites have data security requirements, while ISPs with a direct customer relationship do not". And she said consumers would be left vulnerable.

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In a 2-1 vote that went along party lines, the FCC voted Wednesday to stay temporarily one part of privacy rules passed in October that would give consumers the right to decide how their data is used and shared by broadband providers.

Included in that agenda is a notice of proposed rulemaking that would allow phone service providers to block calls from "spoofed" numbers, which disguise the source of certain robocalls. While these web companies have their own privacy policies, and are bound by a patchwork of state laws that mandate data breach notification, no comprehensive federal law exists that provides a national baseline for their privacy and data security practices.

Federal Communications Commission's chief, Ajit Pai, said that the government should not favor one set of firms over another.

The Broadband Consumer Privacy Rules were also set to put in place a more stringent requirement on ISPs for reporting potential data breaches that may have harmed customers or put their data at risk. "What it actually does is permit providers to shift the costs for corporate negligence onto private citizens".

In a statement to press, the FCC says the action "ensures consumers have uniform online privacy protections" with those the Federal Trade Commission enforces on "edge providers" referring to internet-based companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Pai and Ohlhausen's joint statement is available here.

However, some in Congress aim to repeal the FCC's privacy rules in their entirety, while weakening the FTC's authority, said Chris Lewis, vice president of public interest group Public Knowledge.

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