FCC to vote on new broadband privacy rules to protect US citizens

7 Oct 2016

How much privacy do you really have with your ISP? Image: Chombosan/Shutterstock

In a move that will concentrate the minds of governments and regulators all over the world, the FCC is to vote on new broadband rules for ISPs aimed at protecting consumers’ privacy.

On 27 October, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on new rules to protect the privacy of broadband subscribers.

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This is despite intense opposition from internet service providers (ISPs).

‘In today’s digital world, consumers deserve to be able to make informed choices about their privacy and their children’s privacy online’

The new rules will require ISPs to get opt-in consent from consumers before sharing web browsing data and other information with advertisers.

The new rules will also bring ISPs into line with rules imposed on websites like Facebook and Google.

Broadband privacy gap must be closed

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler argues that it is of fundamental importance that consumers have a right to protect their privacy – especially their children’s privacy – online.

“Seldom do we stop to realise that our ISP is collecting information about us every time we go online, Wheeler said.

“Your ISP handles all of your network traffic. That means it has a broad view of all of your unencrypted online activity – when you are online, the websites you visit, and the apps you use. If you have a mobile device, your provider can track your physical location throughout the day in real time.

“Even when data is encrypted, your broadband provider can piece together significant amounts of information about you – including private information such as a chronic medical condition or financial problems – based on your online activity.

“The problem is, there are currently no rules in place outlining how ISPs may use and share their customers’ personal information. In fact, 91pc of American adults say consumers have lost control over how their personal information is collected and used by companies, according to Pew Research Center.

“In today’s digital world, consumers deserve to be able to make informed choices about their privacy and their children’s privacy online. After all, it’s your data—shouldn’t you have a say over how it’s used?” Wheeler asked.

He pointed out that for decades the FCC has had stringent privacy rules on protecting the privacy of phone calls.

“Similar rules don’t exist for broadband service today. That’s a gap that must be closed – consumers who use the network of the 21st century deserve similar protections.”

The upcoming vote comes after Wheeler earlier this year called for broadband service providers to disclose how data is collected about users’ online browsing activities.

He also wants to see companies bolster the security of customer data.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years