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January 9 2017

Rolling Back Obama’s Internet Privacy Rules

Patrice L. Onwuka

American consumers and internet providers may get some relief from cumbersome online privacy-related opt-ins and red tape passed last fall by the Obama Administration.

An association of internet providers has filed a petition to have onerous and duplicative new rules repealed. They say the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) overstepped its boundaries in forcing internet service providers to seek our permission before using or sharing the data they collect. The rules also disregard the regulations already in place by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), infringe on First Amendment rights for internet providers, and establish unworkable rules that can lead to confusing experiences for consumers.

The petition reads:

The broadband privacy Order is founded upon, and compounds the errors associated with, the ill-advised decision to reclassify BIAS as a telecommunications service. The pending appeal of Title II reclassification, coupled with the Commission’s likely re-examination of that decision, further support the relief requested here, which is aimed at restoring the consistent application of the bedrock principles of transparency, choice, and security across the Internet.

The asymmetric rules adopted in the Order are arbitrary and capricious because they are unnecessary, unjustified, unmoored from a cost-benefit assessment, and unlikely to advance the Commission’s stated goal of enhancing consumer privacy. Rather, they are likely to harm consumers, competition, and innovation.

The information collected includes such things as your web browsing history; personal, medical, and financial data; and even the content of your emails may available to your internet providers. That information could be shared with third marketers and data collectors who build a consumer profile.

So the FCC passed rules last fall to make it harder for internet companies to use and share that data without your express permission. Seems logical right?

However, as we reported in October, the FCC was flexing its muscles when they didn’t have to because the FTC already regulates what data companies such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast can share with third party vendors.

Also, we consumers would not necessarily be better off from a privacy standpoint than we are today. In addition, our user experiences would be substantially different. Added opt-ins for every website you visit will slow down webpages and require you to click through various opt-ins. There goes all of the effort technology has made in making our ability to get online and browse faster and easier.

Opponents of the rules also point out that the FCC’s regulation created an imbalance. While internet providers have to obey these rules, web companies like Google and Facebook don’t.

This petition is just one effort of many to come to scale back the unprecedented overreach of the Obama Administration into industries and our lives. While the goal to strengthen consumer privacy is well-intentioned, we didn’t need unnecessary and duplicative red-tape. We need to take a red pen to regulations across every industry that put burdens on businesses and hamper innovation. With the Trump Administration poised to take over control next week, it’s quite possible that these onerous and unnecessary regulations will get repealed – and hopefully, not replaced.

We'll keep you posted on how this petition progresses.

 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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