UPDATE 1-U.S. FCC blocks stricter broadband privacy rules from taking effect

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By David Shepardson | NEW YORK

NEW YORK The U.S. Federal Communications
Commission on Wednesday blocked some Obama administration rules
approved last year 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 rules, which were scheduled to take effect on Thursday,
aimed to protect personal consumer data. They would subject
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 to work with the
(Federal Trade Commission) to create a comprehensive and
consistent framework for protecting Americans’ online privacy,”
the agency said in a statement.

Under the rules, internet service 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.

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 – and
certainly not when it comes to a marketplace as dynamic as the

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, said she
opposed the move. “The same agency that should be the ‘cop on
the beat’ when it comes to ensuring appropriate consumer
protections is leaving broadband customers without assurances
that their providers will keep their data secure,” she said in a

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

The FCC in 2015 stripped the FTC of the authority to oversee
broadband privacy, and the pair said they believe authority
should be returned to the FTC.

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