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FCC votes to block internet privacy rule

03 March 2017

Democrat Mignon Clyburn voted against halting the rules. "This stay will allow the FCC and the FTC to take the appropriate time to harmonize any FCC privacy rules with the FTC's framework and allow innovative small businesses to focus on what they do best - serving their customers - rather than complying with undue, inconsistent regulatory requirements".

Privacy rules were addressed by the FCC after its passage of 2015's net neutrality rules resulted in ISPs being reclassified as "common carriers", an action that moved them out of the FTC's authority.

"Two years after the FCC stripped broadband consumers of FTC privacy protections, some now express concern that the temporary delay of a rule not yet in effect will leave consumers unprotected".

On Wednesday, Trump's new FCC chair blocked privacy rules created to protect customers of Comcast, Verizon, and other internet service providers from malicious hackers and data breaches.

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The stay will allow the FCC to consider formal requests from trade groups representing Internet service providers to reconsider the privacy rules, the agency said. But critics said that it would have set up different requirements than privacy rules issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The stay on the rule will be in effect until "the Commission is able to act on pending petitions for reconsideration". According to an FCC statement, it will work with the FTC "to create a comprehensive and consistent framework for protecting Americans' online privacy". "All actors in the online space should be subject to the same rules, enforced by the same agency". It also included any content from unencrypted message that may have been accessible to the service provider. A September 2016 Pew Research Center report found that more than nine out of 10 adults (91%) agree or strongly agree consumers have lost control of their personal data and its use.

"We still believe that jurisdiction over broadband providers' privacy and data security practices should be returned to the FTC, the nation's expert agency with respect to these important subjects". "This Order is but a proxy for gutting the Commission's duly adopted privacy rules - and it does so with very little finesse", she said. "If a provider simply decides not to adequately protect a customer's information and does not notify them when a breach inevitably occurs, there will be no recompense as a matter of course".

Commissioner Clyburn voiced her dissent in a statement issued following the vote, in which she claims the majority has failed to provide any evidence to back their reason for blocking the rules and called the decision the "antithesis" of putting consumers first. "As we said in July, the FCC's new rules stray from this well established and successful privacy regime".