U.S. FCC blocks stricter broadband privacy rules from taking effect

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By David Shepardson | NEW YORK

NEW YORK U.S. regulators on Wednesday blocked
some Obama administration rules on the eve of implementation,
regulations that would have subjected broadband providers to
stricter scrutiny than web sites face to protect customers’
private data.

The reversal by the Trump administration’s U.S. Federal
Communications Commission was a victory for internet providers
such as AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon
Communications Inc .

The rules aimed to protect personal consumer data. They
would have subjected broadband internet service providers to
more stringent data security requirements than websites like
Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc or Alphabet Inc’s
Google unit.

The decision will “provide time” for the FCC and the Federal
Trade Commission to devise “a comprehensive and consistent
framework” to protect online privacy, the agency said in a

Internet service providers hailed the decision. Consumer
advocates objected.

Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast’s vice president of government
communications, called it “a sensible, pro-consumer approach” in
which “consumers remain protected by the safeguards in place for
the past two years.” AT&T and Verizon also praised the action.

But Laura MacCleery, a vice president at Consumer Reports
magazine, called it “a troubling first step towards unraveling
critical, pro-consumer online privacy protections.”

The rules would have required internet service providers to
obtain consumer consent before using precise geo-location,
financial information, health information, children’s
information and web browsing history for advertising and
marketing. For less sensitive information such as email
addresses or service tiers, consumers would be able to opt out.

MacCleery said the Consumer Reports had “heard from more
than 50,000 consumers who support these rules through petitions
and comments directly to the FCC.”

FCC Chair Ajit Pai and acting FTC Chair Maureen Ohlhausen in
a joint statement said they would work to ensure a consistent
privacy 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,” they said. “The federal government
shouldn’t favor one set of companies over another,” they added.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, objected in a
statement that the agency “should be the ‘cop on the beat'” but
instead “is leaving broadband customers without assurances that
their providers will keep their data secure.”

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

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