Last year, the Federal Communications Commission created sweeping new privacy rules to limit how broadband companies can share and sell sensitive information about you.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday blocked some Obama administration rules approved a year ago that would have subjected broadband providers to stricter scrutiny than websites, a victory for internet providers such as AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc.
The stay will reportedly remain in place until the Commission is able to act on pending petitions for reconsideration.
"This elimination of basic data security rules gives ISPs a free ride while online services and other edge providers are still required to take reasonable measures to protect their customers' information under the FTC's framework".
Last week, FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, in a joint statement with the FCC's Clyburn, said she was "very troubled by the news that the data security protections of the Broadband Privacy Rule will be put on hold", adding, "removing security requirements from broadband providers is needlessly risky for American consumers".
The decision followed the reclassification of broadband as a telecom service under the FCC's net neutrality rules, which were also opposed by Pai.
"We still believe that jurisdiction over broadband providers' privacy and data security practices should be returned to the FTC, the nation's expert agency with respect to these important subjects", they said.
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The Federal Communications Commission is halting the new broadband privacy rules from taking effect this week. "It creates a huge gap in consumer protections where websites have data security requirements, while ISPs with a direct customer relationship do not".
Privacy advocates and Democratic legislators are wary that the FCC under Pai, a Republican, may whittle down the privacy rules proposed under the previous administration of President Barack Obama. Democrat Mignon Clyburn voted against halting the rules.
The FCC made a major update to its robocall rules back in 2015 that allowed phone service providers to start offering blocking tools to stop subscribers from receiving spammy calls. "The federal government shouldn't favor one set of companies over another", they added.
FCC Chair Ajit Pai and acting FTC Chair Maureen Ohlhausen in a joint statement said they would work to ensure a consistent privacy framework.
Proponents of the privacy rules see this move as a blow to consumer protections, and the first step in dismantling desperately needed privacy safeguards as Americans face a barrage of data breaches. In her dissenting statement, she described Pai's efforts as a clumsy and disingenuous ploy.
The FCC, FTC and Congress could use the stay to standardize consumer privacy protections on ISPs, web sites and apps with "a lasting, forward leaning set of privacy protections for all online", said Debra N. Diener, a former privacy official at the Department of Homeland Security and Internal Revenue Service in an opinion piece in The Huffington Post earlier this week. "What it actually does is permit providers to shift the costs for corporate negligence onto private citizens". "If a provider simply decides not to adequately protect a customer's information and does not notify them when a breach inevitably occurs, there will be no recompense as a matter of course", she said. "As we said in July, the FCC's new rules stray from this well established and successful privacy regime".