There’s been a lot of misinformation about Internet privacy. In 2015, President Obama moved jurisdiction over privacy from the Federal Trade Commission to the Federal Communication Commission. The action last week by Congress was to return Internet privacy regulations back to where they were before. An article written by the heads of both these agencies explains exactly what happened.
April Fools’ Day came early last week, as professional lobbyists lit a wildfire of misinformation about Congress’s action — signed into law Monday by President Trump — to nullify the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules. So as the nation’s chief communications regulator and the nation’s chief privacy enforcer, we want to let the American people know what’s really going on and how we will ensure that consumers’ online privacy is protected.
Let’s set the record straight: First, despite hyperventilating headlines, Internet service providers have never planned to sell your individual browsing history to third parties. That’s simply not how online advertising works. And doing so would violate ISPs’ privacy promises. Second, Congress’s decision last week didn’t remove existing privacy protections; it simply cleared the way for us to work together to reinstate a rational and effective system for protecting consumer privacy.
Both of us warned two years ago that the FCC’s party-line vote to strip the Federal Trade Commission of its jurisdiction over Internet broadband providers was a mistake that would weaken Americans’ online privacy. Up until that decision, the FTC was an effective cop on the privacy beat, using a consistent framework for protecting privacy and data security throughout the entire Internet ecosystem. Indeed, under that framework, the FTC carried out more than 150 enforcement actions, including actions against some of the nation’s largest Internet companies.