New FCC Chairman Begins Attacks on Internet Privacy
UPDATE: 3/2/17 Updated to include which types of consumer data were impacted by these changes.
Your ISP knows a lot about who you are and what you do online. Their records just got a whole lot less secure.
Newly minted Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai just granted the telecom industry its wish: he has blocked new requirements that Internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast apply common sense security practices to protect your private data. By suspending the FCC's proposed data security rules for ISPs, Pai is pitting Internet users against the very companies we trust to get us online. And the ISPs will continue to win—unless we fight back.
Internet users won a significant victory last year when the FCC issued its Broadband Privacy Rules. As part of these rules, ISPs would be required to protect their customers' sensitive information. For instance, ISPs would need to take reasonable steps to protect Social Security numbers, financial information, health information, and records of Web browsing data against hackers. In the wake of major ISPs like Comcast suffering huge data breaches, this would clearly be sound policy—but Chairman Pai apparently disagrees. And of course, ISPs are gleeful about his decision because they'd prefer not to be scrutinized when they fail to properly protect your data.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the worst of it.
Republicans in Congress are planning a much bigger assault on the Internet, by making it illegal for the FCC to protect consumer privacy online. With heavy support from the cable and telephone industry, they are hoping to use a rare and far reaching tool known as a Congressional Review Act resolution, which would not only completely eliminate all of the FCC's broadband privacy rules (not just the data security rule), it would prohibit the FCC from ever enacting any "substantially similar" privacy rules in the future. Because of the current regulatory landscape, the Federal Trade Commission is also barred from policing ISPs, leaving no federal cop on the beat to protect consumer privacy in this space.
In other words, ISPs would have carte blanche when it comes to rifling through, sharing, and selling your private data.
We need to act now to stop Pai and the ISP lobbyists in DC from dismantling these important privacy protections. The good news is we've done it before: by speaking out, Internet users all over the country sent a clear message to DC that we value net neutrality and privacy. Now we can do it again.