President Trump recently signed a congressional resolution of disapproval, effectively repealing internet privacy rules passed by the Tom Wheeler-led Federal Communications Commission. Republican Chairman Ajit Pai said the action was the first step in returning authority and policing power over internet privacy rules from the FCC to the Federal Trade Commission.
According to Pai, the President and Congress “have appropriately invalidated one part of the Obama-era plan for regulating the internet. These flawed privacy rules, which never went into effect, were designed to benefit one group of favored companies, not online consumers.” Those rules, of course, subjected ISPs to more stringent FCC telecommunications regulation, while website providers such as Facebook and Google were not brought under the common carrier regulatory umbrella.
Many parties, including Republican lawmakers and regulators, ISPs, the FCC and the FTC, want to go beyond the repeal of the privacy rules. Pai stated that, “We need to put America’s most experienced and expert privacy cop back on the beat. And we need to end the uncertainty and confusion that was created in 2015 when the FCC intruded in this space.”
Fellow Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly concurred, calling the “parade of horribles trotted out to scare the American people about…passage (of the previous rules) completely fictitious. Hopefully, we will soon return to a universe of where thoughtful privacy protections are not overrun by shameful power grabs and blatant misrepresentations.”
FTC Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen is completely on board. Her joint statement with Pai said, “The FTC has a long track record of protecting consumers’ privacy and security throughout the Internet ecosystem. It did not serve consumers’ interests to abandon this longstanding, bipartisan, successful approach.”
Given the amount of negative sentiment surrounding the previously enacted net neutrality order – from so many segments of the industry – we would not be at all surprised to see future changes in more than just its internet privacy provisions.