To the Editor:
I am strongly committed to protecting the privacy of Americans using the internet. There’s been much discussion and confusion about S.J. Res. 34, which passed the House and reversed a recent Federal Communications Commission regulation on internet privacy. Let’s be clear – the proposed rule was published in December 2016 and had never gone into effect in the first place.
When proposed, the FCC claimed the rules would provide broadband customers meaningful choice, greater transparency and strong security protections for their personal information collected by internet service providers. ISPs only include a designated number of providers. And these ISPs do not have unique or complete access to consumers’ online activity, according to experts, including Larry Downes of Georgetown University and others at the Georgia Tech Institute for Information Security and Privacy.
Because of this, the rule arbitrarily treated ISPs differently from the rest of the internet. Search engines like Google and Microsoft’s Bing, as well as third-party companies, were carved out, creating a false sense of privacy that simply didn’t exist. This left a vast majority of browsing and customer information unprotected and does a great disservice to consumers. That’s why I supported reversing this rule.
I believe the Federal Trade Commission, which has been focused on protecting consumers since the 1970s, should maintain its jurisdiction over this area. Rolling back the FCC proposed rule puts the full authority for compliance back with the FTC. In a bid to expand its own power, the FCC stripped the FTC of its jurisdictional authority and reclassified ISPs as common carriers. The FCC’s power grab created a dual-track system in which the FCC applies its own set of rules to ISPs, while the FTC monitors the rest of the internet ecosystem. The FTC has been the “cop on the beat” for decades, and the FCC’s decision created a bifurcated approach in order to advance its own political clout.
Contrary to some reports, personal health and financial information are already protected under regulatory regimes created by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The FCC rule did nothing to expand these protections. Reversing it did nothing to diminish them.
S.J. Res. 34 puts all segments of the internet on equal footing and moves consumer privacy protection back to the FTC where it is best housed. American consumers will be once again provided with a consistent set of privacy rules.
Representative for Illinois’ 14th U.S. Congressional District