Six advertising industry trade groups yesterday thanked Republican lawmakers for introducing legislation that would overturn rules that protect the privacy of Internet users. If the rules are overturned, advertisers would not be prevented from buying consumers’ Web browsing history from Internet service providers.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) last week introduced Congressional Review Act resolutions that would overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s privacy rules for Internet service providers and prevent the FCC from issuing similar regulations in the future.
“We wholeheartedly commend Senator Flake and Congressman Blackburn, and their Senate and House colleagues, for introducing resolutions of disapproval for the FCC’s ill-considered move to create a new, costly, counterproductive, confusing and unnecessary regulatory regime around privacy for broadband providers,” ad industry lobby and trade groups said in a statement issued by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, American Advertising Federation, Association of National Advertisers, Data & Marketing Association, Interactive Advertising Bureau, and Network Advertising Initiative.
If the FCC rules are eliminated, ISPs would not have to get consumers’ explicit consent before selling or sharing Web browsing data and other private information with advertisers and other third parties. The FCC issued the rules when it was led by a Democratic majority last year.
FCC and lawmakers seek end of privacy rules
The FCC’s new Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, opposes the rules and has already halted the implementation of a data security component that required ISPs to take “reasonable” steps to protect customers’ information from theft and data breaches. The more well-known portion of the rules, which requires ISPs to get opt-in consent from consumers before sharing information with third parties, is scheduled to take effect no earlier than December 4, 2017.
The entire set of privacy rules could be undone by either the FCC or Congress. “Without prompt action in Congress or at the FCC, the FCC’s regulations would break with well-accepted and functioning industry practices, chilling innovation and hurting the consumers the regulation was supposed to protect,” the ad industry groups said.
It’s “one of the worst rules that has been put forward in some time,” Association of National Advertisers Executive VP Dan Jaffe said, according to a MediaPost article. “One way or another, it needs to be stopped.” Jaffe said that the ad groups “plan to lobby on the Hill in support of the resolution proposed by Flake and Blackburn,” MediaPost wrote.
Republicans say the Federal Trade Commission, not the FCC, should have authority over the privacy practices of ISPs. But overturning the existing privacy rules would not by itself return authority to the FTC, and the FTC could be more lenient with ISPs than the FCC.
If no agency enforces privacy rules, “consumers will have no ability to stop Internet service providers from invading their privacy and selling sensitive information about their health, finances, and children to advertisers, insurers, data brokers or others who can profit off of this personal information, all without their affirmative consent,” Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said last week.
Acting FTC Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen said last year that the FTC recommends getting opt-in consent for “unexpected collection or use of consumers’ sensitive data such as Social Security numbers, financial information, and information about children,” and an opt-out system for other data, she wrote. Under that scenario, ISPs apparently would not need opt-in consent from customers before sharing Web browsing history.