FCC, FTC Work to Heal Obama’s Anti-Consumer Online Privacy Rules

by Mike Wendy on March 2, 2017

If you don’t already know it, the Trump FCC has begun the process of correcting the previous Commission’s online privacy protections. Specifics aside, it remains likely that at some point soon – perhaps with the aid of Congress – the industry-cleaving privacy rule passed last year by a Google-captured, Obama FCC will either be tossed out the window, or, at the very least, harmonized with the FTC’s successful privacy framework.

Some of this work can be seen in yesterday’s unusual, but welcome, joint FCC-FTC statement about their cross-agency efforts to protect online privacy protections, noting:

“…All actors in the online space should be subject to the same rules, enforced by the same agency. Until that happens, however, we will work together on harmonizing the FCC’s privacy rules for broadband providers with the FTC’s standards for other companies in the digital economy…The federal government shouldn’t favor one set of companies over another—and certainly not when it comes to a marketplace as dynamic as the Internet. So going forward, we will work together to establish a technology-neutral privacy framework for the online world. Such a uniform approach is in the best interests of consumers and has a long track record of success.”

Since the mid-90’s, the FTC protected online privacy for the entire Internet ecosystem, helping the ‘Net flower. But, President Obama’s FCC “fixed” all that, usurping the FTC’s privacy role, thereby splitting protection into two disparate and confusing regimes for consumers: one for ISPs, onerously regulated by the FCC; and one for companies like Google, more loosely watched by the FTC.

Consumers see Internet privacy as a single concept which should be policed by single cop. They had that with the FTC. Thankfully, it appears the new FCC and FTC will be moving back in that direction.

The previous FCC’s power grab illustrates a sad truth, however. Only in Washington can adding numerous layers of complexity, confusion and cronyism be claimed as being pro-consumer, “fixing” what ain’t broke.

Americans are tired of this nonsense. No wonder President Obama’s ostensible “third term” was rejected by voters last November.

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