Feds Just Itching To Regulate The Internet
from the careful-what-you-wish-for... dept
It looks like the folks in DC are looking for all sorts of ways to further regulate companies in Silicon Valley. Senator Chuck Schumer is pushing for the FTC to regulate how Facebook handles privacy issues, which has some legal experts scratching their heads noting that the FTC doesn’t have the authority to do so:
I have to say, in the words of my boyhood hero John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious.” Schumer is asking the FTC to do his job for him. Surely Schumer — who has been in Congress since 1991 and in the Senate since 1999 — knows that the FTC’s authority to regulate online privacy is on very shaky and politically charged ground. At a minimum, he knows that Congress has failed to act, despite calls for federal online privacy legislation for over a decade.
Except… well… that may be changing. A few folks have sent over noting that “a little-known provision” in the currently debated financial overhaul bill would suddenly grant the FTC more power to regulate the internet. This comes just a few months after someone in the Commerce Department suggested that it was time for the current administration to “rescind” its “leave the internet alone” regulatory stance — specifically including taking an active role when it comes to internet privacy (along with cybersecurity and copyright…).
If this is indeed happening, then it certainly shouldn’t be a part of the financial regulatory reform bill, but should stand to be debated alone, so that there’s an actual discussion of what’s happening and why, and people can weigh in. As a part of a larger bill, there will likely be little if any public debate on a potentially massive policy change. Right now, what’s being said is a bit scary. The article quotes FTC chair Jon Leibowitz saying:
“If we had a deterrent, a bigger stick to fine malefactors, that would be helpful.”
But there are pretty big questions about who should be considered malefactors and who should be allowed to fine them and for what. In the past, Leibowitz has sounded reasonable, but he’s also been a bit quick to ask for additional regulatory powers in the past as well. And, for those of you worried about the question of getting power to regulate the internet over copyright, it is worth mentioning that Liebowitz worked at the MPAA for four years.
No matter what, this would be a pretty massive change in policy, and as such, it deserves a full and open debate — something that seems increasingly rare when it comes to regulating the internet these days.