FCC Delays Critically Important Personal Privacy Protections

Government Allows Internet Providers to Simply “Promise” to Protect Consumer Privacy

Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to stay the data security requirements that were scheduled to go into effect today to require broadband internet providers to take reasonable measures to safeguard customers’ personal information. The following statement can be attributed to Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at the Consumer Federation of America:

“March 2, 2017 was supposed to be the day that consumers would finally have the right to expect that their broadband internet providers would take reasonable steps to safeguard their personal information from hacking and other unauthorized use. Sadly, the day before this requirement was due to take effect, Federal Communications Commission voted to delay it, leaving broadband customers without any recourse if their data, which can contain very sensitive personal information, is compromised.

The FCC argues that it would cost internet service providers too much money to comply with this security requirement now, when it might be nullified later if the agency decides to roll back the recently-approved broadband privacy rules of which it is a part, as these companies have petitioned it to do. It claims that consumers aren’t without protection because many internet service providers have voluntarily pledged to keep their data secure – a promise that the FCC cannot enforce. Nor can the Federal Trade Commission act to enforce it, since a court last year ruled that it has no jurisdiction over telecommunications services, which the FCC has deemed to include internet service providers.

The fact is, the FTC has no rulemaking authority to require broadband internet providers or any other companies to protect the personal information that they collect about us, or to ask us for our consent before they use it for purposes beyond providing the services we’re paying them for. The broadband privacy rules, which are now in danger not only from the new majority at the FCC but from members of Congress who want to use the Congressional Review Act to repeal them and prevent the agency from ever issuing similar rules again, represent the first time that consumers have really been put in the driver’s seat when it comes to how information gleaned from their online activities is used.

It was a giant step forward to give consumers these privacy rights, and losing these rights would be a giant step backwards, at a time when we should be moving forward to enact legislation that would put consumers in control of their online privacy more broadly.”

 Contact: Susan Grant, 202-939-1003

The Consumer Federation of America is a national organization of more than 250 nonprofit consumer groups that was founded in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education.