7/25/17 – Internet Privacy

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The headlines told one story.  The reality told another.

Here’s what’s happening behind the headlines.

Weeks ago the news cycle was filled with how Congress was rolling back Internet privacy rights [here, herehere, here].  That narrative was misleading.

In the final days of 2016, the FCC issued new Internet privacy rules.  Some questioned the rules’ legality.  The Federal Trade Commission had jurisdiction over Internet privacy.

The rules required internet service providers implement an opt-in policy on data collection.  Customers would have to consent before cable companies could collect or disclose their data.  This includes browser history, app usage and so on.  Existing law prevents the sharing of data tied to an individual.  It must be anonymously bundled with other users.

But not everyone had to abide by the same rules.  There was a carve-out for what’s called edge providers.  These include Google, Facebook and similar services.  They were given a very lax policy.  Consent to collect or share data was automatically granted unless the user opted-out.

The FCC was picking winners and losers.

This spring, Congress nullified the rules before they took effect. Privacy protections today are the same as they’ve been for two decades.

A pair of federal laws – including the Wiretap Act – already protect most of a consumer’s Internet communications.
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