America's Newest Hero is looking out for the good of the common man. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Thomas Wheeler has been spearheading efforts to propose privacy regulations for Internet service providers. The proposal is to give the community a voice to weigh in on how service providers are allowed to collect personal and public information and sell it. This is the first time these regulations will be spelled out to the service providers.
"All we're saying in our proposal is that you, the consumer, ought to have a say in whether they can repackage and use information, which is basically your information, not their information," Wheeler says. Wheeler will formally propose his policy on March 31. Let's hear it for Captain Privacy for empowering consumers.
However, Wheeler is not longer the chairman of the FCC. The newly elected chairman, Ajit Pai, has hinted at their being significant changes in regards to privacy and internet access. BroadbandSearch brings you outline of how Wheeler proved to be pro consumer and how any changes to current regulation will affect you as a consumer.
What Privacy Regulations Currently Exist?
Something that many broadband users forget to stop and think about is the fact that your selected internet service provider is able to view any unencrypted activity online. A study has shown that more than 90% of adults have no idea where their information goes when they enter it into a website. The Federal Trade Commission (FCC) has put regulations in place that limits how large websites like Google, Facebook, or Amazon share your data and how phone providers share (or resell) your data, but not until recently have they proposed these same regulations for internet providers.
Most recently, the past FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, proposed that internet providers be more transparent so that consumers are able to make educated decisions about how their data is used. These specific regulations would include things such as:
- Your service provider would be required to tell you exactly what information they intend to collect from you, how they plan to use it, and where they plan to share it.
- In order to collect any information, internet service providers will have to provide you with an "opt-in or out" consent form if they planned on sharing sensitive data (i.e. financial records, social security numbers, and browsing history).
- Protect all user data from security breaches. If or when a breach happens the service provider will be required to notify the user.
How Do These Changes Affect Consumer Rights?
President Donald Trump named Ajit Pai as the new FCC Chairman and this change has many people wondering what will happen with the current net neutrality laws. Net neutrality is the term that refers to the internet being open and accessible for everyone, no matter the website or website content. Trump and Pai have both come out has opponents of these laws and are looking to change them. The change would allow for internet service providers to charge a fee to either the consumer or website owner for speed and data prioritization. With these changes, there will also be some changes in our privacy and rights as consumers.
Pai's main goal is to deregulate the commission, which could have adverse effects for consumers. Without regulation, service providers would be able to charge customers exorbitant prices. Also, zero-rated services, where cable providers allow you to watch certain programming without it counting toward your data, would become more prominent under Pai. This also can potentially drive prices up for consumers because of the unfair bias toward these providers creating a severe lack of competition. "Failing to pursue aggressive consumer protection policies only makes things worse and only takes more money out of people's wallets" said John Gasparini, a telecom expert.
Most recently, Pai successfully blocked Tom Wheeler's proposed privacy laws. Internet service providers are happy over the decision but what does this mean for the consumer? For now, Pai wants to reevaluate his next move and blocking the privacy regulations buys him more time. He believes that the decision making power regarding broadband privacy should be overseen by the Federal Trade Commission. Consumer advocates are worried about the potential future of how users will be protected while surfing the internet, a feeling that is not unwarranted. Without any sort of regulation, broadband users will continue to be unaware of how their information is being used by their provider. The FCC needs to find harmony between consumers and service providers before this issue escalates any further. Only time will reveal how Pai intends to handle this.