A party line vote of 2-1 at the FCC on Wednesday resulted in a temporary stay of the data security requirements adopted in the Privacy and Data Security Order released last November. They were set to go in effect on Thursday. Several trade groups representing internet service providers (ISPs) have been vocal critics of the regulation, and argued that it would subject ISPs to a different standard than that applied to other companies in the internet ecosystem by the Federal Trade Commission. Previously, broadband providers released a voluntary set of “ISP Privacy Principles” that fall more in line with the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy framework.
The stay will reportedly remain in place until the Commission is able to act on pending petitions for reconsideration. According to an FCC statement, it will work with the FTC “to create a comprehensive and consistent framework for protecting Americans’ online privacy.”
NCTA – The Internet & Television Association applauded the move. “Today’s FCC action to issue a temporary stay of the data security regulation is a welcome recognition that consumers benefit most when privacy protections are consistently applied throughout the internet ecosystem,” it says in a statement. “As service providers, our companies are committed to providing a quality internet experience that protects the security of personal information, and we will continue to operate with that commitment as the FTC and FCC pursue further action to harmonize online privacy protections.”
The American Cable Association, which represents small- and medium sized cable operators, also cheered the idea that the FCC was looking to better synchronize its standards with those established by the FTC. “Given the likelihood that the current FCC will revisit the agency’s broadband privacy and data security rules and harmonize them with the Federal Trade Commission’s related standards, ACA applauds the FCC’s decision to stay its data security rules,” ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka comments. “Forcing small operators to implement rules now that are likely to be rescinded and replaced with different rules would be a significant and unjustified burden. The stay will in no way change ACA members’ present dedication to protecting their customers’ data security through reasonable measures that are also consistent with existing laws.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen issued a joint statement saying that both agencies are committed to protecting the online privacy of Americans, but they believe the best way to do that is through a comprehensive and consistent framework. “After all, Americans care about the overall privacy of their information when they use the internet, and they shouldn’t have to be lawyers or engineers to figure out if their information is protected differently depending on which part of the internet holds it,” their statement reads.
“That’s why we disagreed with the FCC’s unilateral decision in 2015 to strip the FTC of its authority over broadband providers’ privacy and data security practices, removing an effective cop from the beat,” Pai and Ohlhausen continue. “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.”
Competitive Carriers Association President and CEO Steven K. Berry released a statement agreeing with the stay. “Broadband internet access (BIAS) providers, especially smaller providers, should not be held to different standards than others in the internet ecosystem,” Berry says. “CCA appreciates that all FCC Commissioners and the Chairman acted in advance of the data security regulations going into effect, despite their policy perspective. This stay will allow the FCC and the FTC to take the appropriate time to harmonize any FCC privacy rules with the FTC’s framework and allow innovative small businesses to focus on what they do best – serving their customers – rather than complying with undue, inconsistent regulatory requirements.”
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn who voted against the stay issued an “unequivocal dissent” stressing that the FCC should be the “cop on the beat” when it comes to ensuring consumer protections, and she believes the move is leaving broadband customers without assurances that providers will keep their data secure. She also charges it is “a proxy for gutting the Commission’s duly adopted privacy rules — and it does so with very little finesse.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations