The Ad Industry Is Really Excited About Plans To Gut Broadband Privacy Protections
from the an-informed,-empowered-consumer-costs-us-money dept
The broadband, advertising and marketing industries are absolutely thrilled about plans to kill the FCC’s new broadband privacy protections for consumers. Passed last year, the rules simply require that ISPs provide working opt-out tools, go to reasonable lengths to protect data and notify users of hack attacks, and be transparent about what data they collect and who they sell to. The rules also require that ISPs obtain opt-in consent (public enemy number one for marketing folks) for the collection and sale of more personal data like financial details or browsing histories.
Given that empowered, informed consumers cost the marketing and broadband industry billions, they’ve been waging a massive campaign to have the rules killed — and they’re about to succeed. New FCC boss Ajit Pai quickly and covertly set about killing the rules’ hacking-related requirements. Meanwhile Senator Jeff Flake and Rep. Marsha Blackburn have gotten quickly to work introducing Congressional Review Act resolutions that would kill the rest of the new rules before they’re even allowed to take effect.
Needless to say, the marketing industry is pretty excited. In a joint statement by numerous ad policy and lobbying groups including the Association of National Advertisers and American Advertising Federation, the ad industry went so far as to try and claim that protecting consumer privacy was somehow “anti-consumer”:
“Without prompt action in Congress or at the FCC, the FCC’s regulations would break with well-accepted and functioning industry practices, chilling innovation and hurting the consumers the regulation was supposed to protect. The Congressional Review Act was designed as a common-sense check on anti-consumer regulations like this, and we are pleased that Senator Flake, Congressman Blackburn, and their colleagues are using it to such positive effect. We strongly urge Congress to support and quickly act on these Joint Resolutions.”
Granted the ad and broadband industries would have you forget why the FCC crafted these “anti-consumer” rules in the first place. They were only pushed after Verizon was caught covertly modifying user wireless packets in order to track users around the internet without telling them. The FCC was similarly motivated by the fact that AT&T and Comcast were starting to show interest in charging users a premium for privacy, and the fact that companies like CableONE were proudly crowing about how they use financial data to provide worse customer service to bad credit customers.
The lack of last mile competition ensures that these companies face no organic, market-based punishment for these behaviors. And now regulatory oversight will be hamstrung as well, much to the joy of large ISPs looking to jump more heavily into the Millennial advertising business.
ISP-loyal lawmakers are selling the push by claiming that eliminating FCC oversight — and leaving privacy in the hands of the FTC only — will result in “more efficient” and “symmetrical” regulations in line with what Google and Facebook face (ignoring the vast, obvious differences in the internet content and broadband industries). That’s something former FCC boss (and dingo) Tom Wheeler called a “fraud,” specifically designed to saddle the already overextended FTC with work ISPs know will fall through the cracks. The EFF was also quick to recently debunk this and other claims over at its website:
“Unfortunately, recent court decisions have limited the FTC?s ability to enforce privacy rules on ISPs. Plus, relying on each state to enforce its own laws to protect privacy would create a terrible patchwork of mismatched regulations. You?d think with all the uncertainty and bureaucracy that would create, the ISPs would actually prefer clear, bright-line rules at the national level. But you?d be wrong: at this point, they?ll say anything to block the FCC?s privacy-protective rules.”
The EFF has penned a second post discussing all of the fun things ISPs have done — and will do — with neither regulators nor free market competition keeping them in line. These efforts are being rushed through under the belief that bigger debates (like the Affordable Care Act) will overshadow how quickly Congress mindlessly rushed to do the bidding of companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Charter. A vote on the repeal of the rules is expected to happen as soon as Thursday, and consumer advocacy groups like Public Knowledge and the EFF are urging concerned citizens to contact their representatives.