Much has been made of Congress’ vote to prevent the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) from imposing a duplicative and conflicting new set privacy rules on the Internet. Sadly, a significant portion of the coverage this vote has been blatantly misleading. Protecting our right to privacy is very personal and important especially when it comes to the Internet and other technology platforms. It is crucial that consumers be armed with facts not partisan rhetoric to make informed decisions so I would like to set the record straight.
For almost two decades, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has successfully and aggressively protected consumers from fraud and violations of their privacy rights in both the physical and virtual worlds. They have prosecuted hundreds of cases against fraud, deceptive claims, data security violations, data sharing violations and a myriad of others. At the same time, the model of the FTC has given consumers choices that have allowed the Internet to grow into a fixture of our daily lives. In one generation, the web has transformed into a novelty to a necessity.
Despite the long history of the FTC’s success, the FCC had a different idea and a different agenda. Under President Obama, the FCC engaged in a half decade long effort to transform the Internet into a government utility. Using laws written for a dial-up phone, the FCC grabbed power over Internet Service Providers (ISPs) imposing “net neutrality” in 2015 and then just 10 days before the presidential election rolled out a proposed “privacy” regulation over the objections of the FTC.
This regulation would not have applied to companies like Google that mine and harvest your data 24-hours a day which means that users would have had different rules for different parts of the Internet. The two-tiered rule application would have created confusion among consumers as to which information was protected when, where and how. Such uncertainty and the gaps between enforcement agencies would have been an open invitation for criminals to exploit consumers who mistakenly believed their information was protected.
Congress rightfully rejected the proposed rule and in doing so has forced the FCC and FTC to work together to harmonize their rule-making. One set of rules applying equally to all platforms equally is far superior to a confusing matrix of red-tape. That would not have happened without Congress’ action.
I want to be clear that Congress did not repeal any existing privacy laws. They simply rejected a flawed FCC proposal. All of the long-standing privacy rules consumers have embraced remain in force. But that hasn’t stopped some partisan organizations, many funded by George Soros, from attempting to mislead the public as to the effect of the congressional action.
All of the social media traffic, blog posts and even news coverage claiming that Internet privacy was repealed is completely fabricated nonsense.
I’m proud that our local U.S. Representative David Valadao was able to see beyond the partisan misinformation and was willing stand up for consumers by blocking a flawed bureaucratic rule that would have harmed privacy and innovation.
Consumers demand a clear, single set of rules to protect their privacy everywhere they venture on the web. Corporate behemoths like Google and Facebook that compile more consumer information that most should not be given a pass when it comes to our privacy rights. Congress’s actions will ensure that is not the case. In the end, Congress’ actions were a victory for progress and privacy.