Republicans Now Say FCC Should Police Broadband Privacy

Republicans in Congress who spearheaded a repeal of the broadband privacy rules are now asking the Federal Communications Commission to police Internet service providers' data policies.

In a letter sent to the FCC late last week, the lawmakers argue that the Telecommunications Act empowers the agency to protect consumers against "unjust and unreasonable practices."

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (Oregon), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chair Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee) and 48 other Republicans argue in the letter that the telecom law currently "provides the necessary authority to protect consumers in a similar manner to how the FTC protects consumers under its authority to prevent unfair and deceptive acts and practices."

They go on to call the FTC the "standard-bearer for striking the right balance of consumer protection within a pro-innovative construct."

The FCC's rules -- which a Republican-controlled Congress invalidated last month -- would have required broadband carriers to obtain consumers' opt-in consent before drawing on their Web-browsing data or app usage history for ad targeting.

By contrast, the FTC recommends only that Web companies allow people to opt out of the collection and sharing of most types of online browsing data. (The FTC suggests that companies obtain opt-in consent before sharing a narrow category of "sensitive" data -- including health information and precise location data.)

The repeal of the FCC's privacy rules is unpopular with the public, according to a recent survey by YouGov, which found that the vast majority of Americans wanted President Donald Trump to veto the repeal. The federal rollback also prompted lawmakers in states like Minnesota to consider passing their own pro-privacy laws.

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