New FCC Chair Blocks Internet Privacy Rules

Last fall, the FCC voted to implement a new set of rules that would protect users from internet service providers collecting information about them without their knowledge and consent. The rules were supposed to go into effect last week — but that didn’t happen. Instead, Ajit Pai — the new chairman of the FCC — has blocked them and they will up for a new vote.

The proposed rules would have required that ISPs get an official opt-in from customers before collecting certain information, including precise geo-location, children’s information, health information, financial information, social security numbers, web browsing history, app usage history, and the content of communication. They would also have to take further steps to protect that information from cyber criminals, an important step in this age of increasing data breaches across the board.

The companies would still be able to collect email addresses, service tiers, IP addresses, and bandwidth usage even if the new rules are implemented.

However, with this move by the FCC, it’s unclear whether or not Americans will ever see the Broadband Privacy Rules go into effect, especially because the appointment of Pai as the new head of the FCC indicates a signal change in the organization. His record so far in the FCC — where he’s been a commissioner since 2012 — is one of opposing any kind of protection for consumers and siding instead with big companies like the ISPs that petitioned against the Internet Broadband Privacy Rules.

“All actors in the online space should be subject to the same rules, and the federal government shouldn’t favor one set of companies over another,” a spokesman for Pai said in regards to the move.

Additionally, Pai has gone on record saying that he does not believe that net neutrality is solving a real issue — and that he plans to dismantle the Open Internet Order (which protects net neutrality) as soon as possible.

“On the day that the Title II Order was adopted, I said that ‘I don’t know whether this plan will be vacated by a court, reversed by Congress, or overturned by a future commission. But I do believe that its days are numbered,’” Pai said at a Free State Foundation event last December. “Today, I am more confident than ever that this prediction will come true.”

Finally, two members Congress are pushing to take this opportunity to put a Congressional Review Act repeal into effect. The CRA lets Congress invalidate a recently passed rule via an expedited legislative process. It also prohibits reissuing the same rule that is more or less the same "unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the joint resolution disapproving the original rule.” Effectively, that means that if the CRA passes, the FCC will potentially not be allowed to pass any rules regarding internet privacy.

If you’re concerned about having control of the information that is collected, sold, and shared about your online activity, the Electronic Freedom Frontier has set up an easy-to-sign petition so you can let your representative know where you stand.

And in the meantime, it may be time to consider taking steps to protect your data on your own. At Tenta, we offer private encrypted browsing with built in VPN. No one will ever have access to your browsing data — not even us.

Photo courtesy of @robsarm

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