Liberal Lawmakers Seek Strong FCC Privacy Rules for the Always-Connected Era

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The Federal Communications Commission should wrap up its broadband privacy rulemaking, including strong consumer protections for how users’ data is collected, used and shared by internet service providers, seven of the Senate’s most liberal lawmakers said in a July 7 letter.

“In 2016, broadband access is no longer a luxury; it is now as essential as phone service,” said Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.). Therefore, they said, limitations on how phone providers monetize customer data should apply to broadband, as well.

The senators’ support should come as welcome news to an FCC looking for support in its approach to limiting ISP’s ability to develop and sell customer data for marketing purposes. But that approach is equally likely to be criticized by policy groups and ISPs advocating for the Federal Trade Commission’s case-by-case enforcement approach rather than broad, prescriptive rules. 

Strong data breach notification requirements are likely to be included in the FCC’s final broadband user privacy rules. The FCC’s approach is supported by senior Democratic and Independent lawmakers, including those that signed the letter, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Secret Service. 

However, the FCC’s proposal is set for a lashing next week in a July 12 hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, of which Blumenthal and Markey are members. 

Scheduled witnesses are drawn from groups hotly opposing the FCC’s proposals, which the FTC has said would revoke its authority to take action against ISPs.