The FCC and Privacy – Two Viewpoints

US Capitol Building nighttime

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been in the news in recent days, as a proposed measure to increase consumer privacy hit resistance in Congress. While the Federal Trade Commission typically oversees matters of consumer privacy, the FCC, as the agency in charge of licensing and allocating bandwidth for internet service providers (ISPs), waded into the privacy debate in October with new rules about how consumer data could be used by ISPs.

While the Congressional votes fall generally along party lines, the debate in the news largely centers around two different views of consumer privacy. On the one hand are organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which favored the proposal, and generally supports very strong privacy protections across the data lifecycle. On the other hand, as an Op-Ed in the online blog The Hill demonstrates, there are those who think that the FCC proposal does little to protect consumer privacy, since so-called edge providers like Google and Facebook still have unrestrained access to personal information aggregated over thousands of digital interactions.

While both sides might disagree about whether the FCC rules are sufficient, both seem to agree that additional work needs to be done to protect consumer privacy. Too often, consumers are left with little choice and even less education about the implications of the data collecting practices of both ISPs and cloud-based companies like Google.

The White House supports the repeal, and President Trump’s advisors would “recommend that he sign the bill into law”. If the bill is signed into law, it contains a provision that would prevent the FCC from reissuing rules which are substantially similar in the future.