Monday, March 21, 2016

241.1 - Good News: FCC to consider stronger privacy rules for ISPs

Good News: FCC to consider stronger privacy rules for ISPs

We'll start the week with some Good News.

FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has circulated to the other board members a proposal that would require broadband and wireless companies to give consumers more control over how their personal data is shared with third parties such as marketing companies.

The proposed rules would require Internet service providers, both broadband and wireless, to clearly disclose how personal consumer data is collected, how it's shared with third parties, and how it's used by these outside firms. They would call for strengthened security for customer data. And perhaps most importantly, they would say that consumers can't be automatically enrolled in such a data-sharing program but must actively choose to do so - that is, to opt-in rather than having to opt-out.

If approved, the proposal would establish the strongest consumer privacy rules ever for ISPs.

Wheeler expects the FCC to open the proposal for public comment at its meeting on March 31. Actual rules would not be voted on until later this year after the comment period ends.

FCC Chair Tom Wheeler
A limitation to this is that it does not apply to Internet and social media sites, such as Google or Facebook, because they fall under the purview of the FTC, which has limited ability to enact regulations to control corporate activity, such as gathering massive amounts of marketable personal data from users. Generally, the FTC can act only after there is evidence of fraud or other illegal behavior. So of course the corporations - such as AT+T and Verizon - are all whining about how unfair it is and how "all the other boys get to do whatever they want."

For one example, Bob Quinn, senior vice president of federal regulatory affairs at AT+T, thundered that "Consumers deserve consistent privacy protections, regardless of which company is collecting it." Put differently, if you have crappy privacy protection from Facebook, then by God you deserve to have crappy privacy protection from AT+T.

Ah, well. This has a long way to go but the very fact that it's being considered, that privacy is becoming more of a concern even if we're coming to it pretty late in the game, is still good news.

Sources cited in links:

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