Chamber Charges FCC with Privacy Feint

Says compromise is same heavy regs in new package

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says the FCC's "compromise" approach to broadband privacy regs is nothing of the sort.

In a blog post in advance of the FCC's planned vote on the proposal Oct. 27, Chamber assistant policy counsel Jordan Crenshaw said the proposal was the same heavy regs under a new guise.

The proposal was initially to take a "use" approach to protecting users' data that would have made most third-party uses of that data opt in.

Related: Top Pallone Aide Stumps for Strong FCC Privacy Rules

But that was changed to a "sensitivity" approach that only made opt in a requirement for that sensitive data. But it would classify web browsing and app use histories as sensitive, amounting, says the chamber, ISPs and others, to essentially the same thing.

"Chairman Wheeler's revised proposal claims to be a compromise that draws upon the Federal Trade Commission’s suggestion of opt-in consent for only sensitive data, but in reality the commission's new proposal eliminates the need to distinguish between sensitive and non-sensitive data because opt-in consent will still be mandated for most of the consumer information useful for broadband providers," says Crenshaw. "The FCC's revised rule in essence tells ISPs that they can now be smothered by a ton of regulatory feathers instead of a ton of stone."

Related: Ad Groups Make Personal Pitch to FCC on Privacy

How did the FCC get it wrong. Let Crenshaw count the ways:

1. For ISPs, he says, the new barriers to competition with websites, who are not subject to similar opt-in regime mandates for data collection, would be a "costly and burdensome" impediment "at a time when the major internet service providers are already expending less in overall broadband capital expenditures."

2. For consumers, he says, "the rigid proposal of requiring upfront consent for all customer data could actually hamper beneficial uses of data for consumers" and force consumers to "navigate two different sets of privacy approaches with websites remaining under the jurisdiction of the FTC and their broadband providers more heavily regulated by the FCC."

3. For edge providers, he says, while they would be under the less restrictive FTC regime, he says the FCC's precedent could lead to similar regs "imposed" on them, as some in Congress are calling for.