As Expected, FCC Passes Modest Privacy Rules For Broadband Providers, ISPs Act Like World Has Ended

from the just-be-a-little-transparent-dammit dept

Over the past week, we've been talking a lot about the need for more transparency and user control for privacy on the internet, so it's only fitting that the FCC has officially adopted its new privacy rules for ISPs that will require broadband providers to be much more explicit concerning what information it collects and shares with others, and provide (mostly) clear "opt-in" requirements on some of that data collection. This isn't a surprise. It was pretty clear that the FCC was going to approve these rules that it announced earlier this year. And, of course, the big broadband providers threw a giant hissy fit over these rules that just ask them to be more transparent and give users at least a little bit of control over what data is collected.

Comcast has caused these proposals "irrational" and various think tankers paid for by the broadband providers tried to tell the world that poor people benefit from a lack of privacy. And magically new studies came out claiming that broadband providers are cuddly and lovable, rather than snarfing up everyone's data.

And, of course, the various broadband providers want to blame Google for the rules, because everyone wants to blame Google for everything. The issue here is that the broadband access providers have these rules, while online service providers, like Google and Facebook do not. There are, of course, a few responses to this. The first, is that the FCC doesn't have authority over those sites, like it does have over the access providers under the Telecom Act. The second is that users are much more locked in to their broadband access provider, and there is much less competition. Switching is much more difficult. The third argument is, basically, that Google and Facebook don't have nearly the same history as the broadband access providers of really nasty privacy violations. Hell, just as these new rules were coming, Verizon was being fined for stealth zombie cookies. Finally, the simple fact is that broadband access providers have the power to spy on a lot more internet activity than Google or Facebook. Yes, those other services are in more and more places, but it's not difficult to block them. With your ISP everything goes through their pipes, and unless you carefully encrypt your traffic via a VPN, they get to see everything.

Frankly, the new rules are not that crazy and shouldn't be controversial at all. Here's how the FCC explains them:
This isn't that complicated, and should move broadband providers towards being more transparent and open. And if what they're offering is truly beneficial then why should they complain about that? It's only when what they're doing is sneaky and underhanded and they know they can't convince people it's worthwhile that they might have a problem. So, yeah, guess why they were so opposed to these rules?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 11:53am

    I can see it coming now...

    Next step. ISPs all raise their rates $10 a month and then offer to waive the fee if you opt-in...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      YupYupTheyWill, 27 Oct 2016 @ 11:57am

      Re: I can see it coming now...

      Dish Network (satellite media provider) did this. $5 dollars a month to keep your information from being used. Required a phone line connected to their DVR at all times.

      I too can see ISP's doing this.

      Thing is, this is all a symptom of a bigger issue, that ADVERTISERS have access to any information on private citizens at all. What constitution amendment did I miss that stated ADVERTISERS had a right to our information?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 5:00pm

        Re: Re: I can see it coming now...

        Three words: 'Third Party Doctrine'.

        If the government can get away with arguing that it's not your data once you hand it to a company(knowingly or not, willingly or not), then you can be sure that those same companies would have a 'strong' case to argue that they're just selling their data to the advertisers to 'better serve their customers with more focused and relevant service'.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Unanimous Coward, 28 Oct 2016 @ 4:34pm

      Re: I can see it coming now...

      That's better than just selling your data without telling you though, right?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2016 @ 6:18pm

      Re: I can see it coming now...

      The FCC thought of this and there is a provision to prevent "take it or leave it" deals.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 12:06pm

    I wonder if this destruction of privacy is really needed. Facebook itself admitted they have no clue of how effective advertising in their realm with all the trackers is. And there's the question of how this overexposure or indiscriminate collection of data actually scares people from buying the products/services.

    Technically companies and their marketing/ad divisions are ran by humans so why aren't they asking themselves the simple "would I be ok being snooped like that?". Most likely the answer is no and yet they are pushing more and more monitoring out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 12:14pm

    Likely method?

    Unless specifically banned, they will just bury the opt in 30+ pages deep in their contract when you sign up. Then just alter the agreement to say something to the effect of "Check this box to agree and opt-in to all terms and conditions" With the other box being just "opt-out" implying that you are cancelling the contract and preying on folks just agreeing to all TOS and contracts without reading them.

    That or do the even more Evil "Click this link to read changes to how we handle your data" without telling what the changes are and then have the checkbox directly below that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 12:21pm

    Shouldn't there be a fourth exception that gives implicit consent for all of your information to be provided to the NSA?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 12:25pm

    I heard there was one FCC commissioner that was waffling on privacy protections and that even Google quietly opposed the privacy protections the FCC were proposing (https://www.dslreports.com/shownews/Google-Argues-Against-Tougher-Broadband-Privacy-Rules-138049 which leads to https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filing/100319291940/document/1003192919401302)

    If I correctly understand what Google and telecos were opposing and if I understand the rules that were passed, it seems that the FCC commissioner that was waffling astonishingly ended up supporting consumers and the public.

    Outside of the growing zero-rating problem, the FCC has been doing an incredible job. It's very unusual to see a government entity being anything other than a bullying strong-arm for anti-consumer commercial and/or dehumanizing mass surveillance interests. It's nice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 2:15pm

    I'm pessimistic enough to think that ISPs will just put in an "if you opt-in/-out of any of the below, you will not be able to use our services" line - kind of like credit card companies do when they send you a notice of an increase in your card's interest rate: 'If you don't want to accept this new rate, then we will close your account.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 3:12pm

      Re:

      Somehow I think the news headlines resulting from that will be worse for ISPs than the news headlines for credit card companies being assholes by hiking up rates.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Just_another_consumer, 27 Oct 2016 @ 4:41pm

    What they are going ape about

    It isn't privacy issues, it's limiting mandatory arbitration.
    Because telecoms loose all the time in court, but when it goes to arbitration, it's decided 96% of the time in their favor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Robert, 27 Oct 2016 @ 11:20pm

    did they go all the way

    The more the freaked out the more disturbing it is. How much were they keeping, were particular individuals targeted for everything. How about complaining customers, how about competitors, not just direct but indirect. You just know, they went well and truly beyond what is allowed but as the government is also involved they got away with it.
    Every comment, every transaction, every contact, everything they traveled across their networks from targeted individuals (they got it before they sold selections to the government, illegal selections and that's a fact).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2016 @ 7:30am

    These rules are irrelevant.

    All they've done is codified criminal wiretapping. The crime occurs at collection, not dissemination. If the ISP is accumulating data above OSI layer 3 for anything other than diagnostic purposes, they have ALREADY committed a crime.

    ISP's have been violating peoples civil rights for years. Instead taking a position and going to court, the FCC hereby chooses to codify habitual tyranny. These rules are completely irrelevant because the rights they presume regulate are already clearly and unequivocally reserved.

    Wheeler has positioned himself at the feet of his baronial masters, instead of before the Constitution he's sworn to defend. While he may concede his rights, me and my fellow citizens, make no such concession.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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