FCC’s Final Internet Privacy Rules Will Likely Align With FTC
What Will it Mean if the FCC’s Final Internet Privacy Rules Align With the FTC?
By Amir Nasr
An industry source says discussions are focusing now on how much the FCC will echo the FTC’s method of enforcing privacy. The FTC requires companies to obtain explicit consent only before using “sensitive” data such as geolocation or financial information.
That would be a notable change from the FCC’s initial proposed rule — passed in March — that includes a requirement that ISPs get customer consent before using virtually all consumer data.
The FTC filed comments with the FCC this summer saying the agency supports the FCC’s general focus on privacy, but its officials also offered a bevy of suggestions. Significantly, they suggested allowing ISPs to use consumer data that isn’t sensitive on an opt-out basis. That would mean that customers can explicitly say they don’t want the company to use their information, but the firm wouldn’t need to ask permission before using it. This is similar to the FTC’s way of regulating privacy among web entities in their jurisdiction such as Amazon.com or Facebook.
The FCC appears to be taking those comments, and others, into account, sources say.
Criticism of the FCC’s proposed rules has centered on how the agency’s new rules would require companies to receive explicit consent to use all consumer data.
The private sector has argued FCC’s proposal to require consent for use of all data would confuse both consumers and businesses because the two halves of the internet — ISPs and so-called “edge providers” such as Facebook — would be subject to two different sets of privacy expectations.
The FTC, the agency tasked with policing internet companies’ privacy practices, has required those companies to receive explicit consent from consumers before accessing “sensitive” data, which includes Social Security numbers, geolocation information and health information.
The industry is watching the deliberations carefully and making its views known. USTelecom, which represents AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., launched a website campaigning for the FCC to adopt the FTC’s framework on Monday. It argues that many websites and online services “are free because companies can show ads to consumers based on their browsing history or preferences.”
Consumer advocates have argued the FCC is right to move forward in its original path to take a stronger position on internet privacy.
It’s obviously not a done deal yet. FCC observers know not to be too sure of anything after the scheduled vote on agency’s cable set-top box rules ended with the commission unexpectedly yanking it from the September agenda.
Aligning the FCC’s rules with the FTC’s approach “still doesn’t make this whole thing worthy of being salvaged,” Sparapani said in an interview. Instead of adding a new layer of rules, the FCC and FTC should come together to form a unified new set of rules that would split the roles between them, he said.
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