Broadband Privacy Protections

These rules give consumers the tools they need to choose how their Internet Service Providers use and share their personal data.

OVERVIEW

These rules, put in place by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), prevent broadband providers from tracking the online behavior of customers without their permission. They create clear requirements for broadband carriers to protect customers’ personal information and require carriers to notify customers in the event of a data breach.

The rules give customers more control over their personal data — including browsing history, app usage, precise location data and information related to finances, health, and children. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can still use customer data for service-related uses, but they will not be able to use customer data to build and sell massive, detailed dossiers without seeking permission.

IMPACTS

The FCC, as mandated by Congress, has successfully overseen consumer privacy for the nation’s telephone network for decades and is now responsible for establishing privacy rules for the basic communications network of the 21st century, Internet Service Providers. Before these rules were established by the Commission, there were no rules in place to outline how ISPs could use and share their customers’ private information.

Providers see a tremendous amount of their customers’ personal information via their internet connection, including browsing habits. Providers could mine, analyze and sell this rich consumer information to marketing companies and others, and subscribers had little or no recourse to prevent such invasive activity.

The new rules not only protect consumers, but also promote competition among ISPs by ensuring that one set of rules applies to all the players in the game. Most Americans have the option of only one or two broadband providers; simply choosing another ISP is not an option. Given the essential need of communications and Internet service, consumers must have a say in how their data is used.

OPPONENTS

Internet Service Providers, advertising associations and other data brokers have already filed Petitions for Reconsideration at the FCC asking the Commission to weaken the rules and, in some cases, rescind the rules completely.

Republicans in Congress, at the FCC and at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) generally oppose the rules as well. This is because the FTC has no power to create proactive rules and can only enforce after a harm is committed. Republican opposition is based largely on the view that the FCC overstepped its authority in reclassifying ISPs as common carriers as part of the Net Neutrality rules passed in 2015. This opposition persists in spite of the District Court’s recent ruling that upheld the reclassification of ISPs.

TAKE ACTION

Tell Congress to Leave the FCC’s Broadband-Privacy Rules Alone!
This action is hosted by Free Press.

Tell Congress to Protect Broadband Privacy Protections for Consumers!
This action is hosted by Public Knowledge.

CONTACTS

Dallas Harris, Public Knowledge, dharris@publicknowledge.org, (202) 559-1053

Tim Karr, Free Press, tkarr@freepress.net, (413) 585-1533

Eric Null, Open Technology Institute at New America, null@opentechinstitute.org, (202) 596-3493

RESOURCES

Markey, Interest Groups Vow to Fight Rollback of Privacy Rules
Broadcasting & Cable: Feb. 23, 2017

EFF: Congress Is Considering Making It Illegal to Protect Consumer Privacy Online
Network World: Feb. 21, 2017

Senate Dem Blasts GOP for Trying to Repeal Broadband Privacy Rules
The Hill: Feb. 16, 2017

New Rules Intended to Protect Your Online Privacy Are Already Under Threat
Slate: Feb. 9, 2017

Privacy Coalition Files Anti-CRA Letter
Free Press: Jan. 27, 2017

Fact Sheet on Broadband Consumer Privacy Proposal
Federal Communications Commission: Oct. 6, 2016

Broadband Privacy Issue Page
Public Knowledge