With net neutrality pretty much dead in the US, your privacy is next

American ISP giants' stooges urge watchdog to tear down safeguards on customer data

Axe Cutting Wood

Full of confidence in Ajit Pai – the new boss at the FCC, America's communications watchdog – groups representing US telcos are seeking a repeal of the regulator's privacy rules.

Citing the appointment of Pai and the imminent decision to roll back the previous administration's net neutrality protections, industry groups now hope that the little requirement for an opt-in for the collection of user data will be frozen, if not done away with completely.

"The FCC privacy framework adopted just last October was a sharp departure from the FTC's innovation-friendly, flexible guidelines that have overseen a successful burgeoning of the Internet," said Doug Brake, telecom policy analyst with industry think-tank Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

"It's time to hit pause before these bad rules are implemented, and then hopefully wipe the slate clean to start fresh on a new policy direction."

Brake, like many on the side of the telco industry, suggests that the FCC should loosen the rules on when and how ISPs and other service operators can both collect and sell off data on their customers.

Lobbying group CTIA has posted similar thoughts, arguing that telcos should be trusted not to flog off customer browsing habits to the highest bidder.

"For over twenty years, ISPs have protected their consumers' data with the strongest pro-consumer policies in the internet ecosystem," the group writes.

"ISPs know the success of any digital business depends on earning their customers' trust on privacy."

The groups have reason to feel optimistic that Pai will follow their wishes and roll back Tom Wheeler's consumer protections. When the privacy rules were first announced in October of last year, Pai was one of two commissioners to oppose the new rules and backed the idea of bringing the FCC's privacy protections in line with the FTC's more lenient rules. ®


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