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The FCC might be about to destroy your online privacy

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

28 February 2017

The body that regulates international and interstate communications, the Federal Communications Commission, is about to halt implementation of a rule that forces internet service providers to protect your privacy.

The data security rule requires ISPs and phone companies to take “reasonable” steps to protect the information of their users from data breaches. This includes such information as Social Security numbers, financial, health and personal data, and browsing and download history.

This rule was brought in under former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, but isn’t scheduled to take effect until March 2. In the meantime, new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is seeking to stop the rule from ever making it that far:

“Chairman Pai is seeking to act on a request to stay this rule before it takes effect on March 2.”

– FCC Spokesperson to [Ars Technica


The data security rule was part of a wider set of privacy rules implemented under Tom Wheeler, but it seems that the commission could be able to wipe out all of these new guidelines, not just the data protection parts.

And here’s the kicker; even if a majority of the commission votes in favour of keeping the rule, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau can make the decision regardless.

Pai’s intention is to create a “technology-neutral privacy framework for the online world”, and to bring ISP guidelines closer to those of other online companies like Google and Facebook, which are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.

However, the FTC cannot regulate “common carriers”, as it terms ISPs. So the FTC won’t regulate ISPs unless the FCC itself or Congress change that classification—which may then wipe out Net Neutrality rules.

Whatever happens, its clear that Chairman Pai’s concerns are not in line with those of privacy advocates and the online security industry. The ACLU have long been fighting these changes, and along with other advocacy groups, they will continue to do so.

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