Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

FCC to Halt Data Privacy Protection Rule for ISPs

From the euphemistically-titledStatement on Need for Comprehensive and Uniform Framework to Protect Americans’ Online Privacy” released by the FCC yesterday:

Chairman Pai believes that the best way to protect the online privacy of American consumers is through a comprehensive and uniform regulatory framework. All actors in the online space should be subject to the same rules, and the federal government shouldn’t favor one set of companies over another.

Funny how Ajit Pai believes in neutrality for companies, but not for the networks over which they preside.

Therefore, he has advocated returning to a technology-neutral privacy framework for the online world and harmonizing the FCC’s privacy rules for broadband providers with the FTC’s standards for others in the digital economy. Unfortunately, one of the previous administration’s privacy rules that is scheduled to take effect on March 2 is not consistent with the FTC’s privacy standards. Therefore, Chairman Pai is seeking to act on a request to stay this rule before it takes effect on March 2.

Jon Brodkin of Ars Technica clarifies:

The data security rule requires ISPs and phone companies to take ‘reasonable’ steps to protect customers’ information — such as Social Security numbers, financial and health information, and Web browsing data — from theft and data breaches.


Pai has said that ISPs shouldn’t face stricter rules than online providers like Google and Facebook, which are regulated separately by the Federal Trade Commission. Pai wants a “technology-neutral privacy framework for the online world” based on the FTC’s standards. According to today’s FCC statement, the data security rule “is not consistent with the FTC’s privacy standards.”

What that means is that instead of the FCC establishing a strong privacy standard for all companies, they’re likely to keep standards at whatever level lobbyists want.

There’s another rule set to go into effect December 4, which would require users to opt into schemes that allow ISPs to share data with other companies, like advertisers. I’d be willing to bet a pretty good chunk of money that this law will also be halted, at a later date. Like I wrote earlier this week, net neutrality and the principles of a better web will die a death of a thousand cuts at the hands of this FCC chairman.