FCC chair to block stricter broadband data privacy rules

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By David Shepardson | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The U.S. Federal Communications
Commission will block some Obama administration rules that
subject broadband providers to stricter scrutiny than websites,
a spokesman said on Friday, in a victory for internet providers
such as AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon
Communications Inc.

The rules approved by the FCC in October in a 3-2 vote were
aimed at protecting sensitive personal consumer data. Ajit Pai,
the FCC chairman appointed by President Donald Trump, believes
all companies in the “online space should be subject to the same
rules, and the federal government should not favor one set of
companies over another,” said FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield.

Pai plans by March 2 to delay the implementation the data
security rules, Wigfield said. Some other aspects of the rules
are under review by the White House Office of Management and
Budget. A temporary stay is a first step toward permanently
blocking the rules, analysts said Friday.

The rules would subject broadband internet service providers
to more stringent requirements than websites like Facebook Inc
, Twitter Inc or Alphabet Inc’s Google.

Providers would need to obtain consumer consent before using
precise geo-location, financial information, health information,
children’s information and Web browsing history for advertising
and internal marketing.

For less sensitive information such as email addresses or
service tiers, consumers would be able to opt out.

Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in a
statement Friday that “Chairman Pai is determined to take action
that leaves consumers without a cop on the beat protecting their
personal information from misuse by their broadband service

Several Democrats in the U.S. Congress also criticized the

Republican commissioners including Pai, said in October the
rules unfairly give websites the ability to harvest more data
than service providers and dominate digital advertising.

Pai said in October the FCC “adopted one-sided rules that
will cement edge providers’ dominance in the online advertising
market.” Google and Facebook account for about two-thirds of all
digital ad revenue.

Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who authored the privacy
rules, said on Friday that they are necessary because consumers
have few options when it comes to broadband providers. “The fact
of the matter is it’s the consumer’s information,” he said. “It’s not the network’s information.”

Berin Szóka, president of TechFreedom, said Pai’s decision
was a good move because “because the real question isn’t a
policy question but a legal one: does the FCC even have
authority to regulate broadband privacy?” (Additional reporting by Anjali Athavaley in New York)

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