Pai Signals Title II Rollback Is Best Privacy Protection

Following the House vote to repeal the FCC's broadband privacy rules, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who had dissented from that framework when it was adopted last April under his Democratic predecessor, said he would work with the FTC to protect online privacy, but felt that "the best way to achieve that result would be to return jurisdiction over broadband providers’ privacy practices to the FTC, with its decades of experience and expertise in this area.”

The Senate had already passed the Congressional Review Act resolution, so it now heads to the desk of President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

“Last year, the Federal Communications Commission pushed through, on a party-line vote, privacy regulations designed to benefit one group of favored companies over another group of disfavored companies," Pai said in a statement. "Appropriately, Congress has passed a resolution to reject this approach of picking winners and losers before it takes effect. 

“It is worth remembering that the FCC’s own overreach created the problem we are facing today," he said. "Until 2015, the Federal Trade Commission was protecting consumers very effectively, policing every online company’s privacy practices consistently and initiating numerous enforcement actions. However, two years ago, the FCC stripped the FTC of its authority over internet service providers [in the Open Internet Order].  At the time, I strongly opposed usurping the FTC, and the FCC’s struggles to address the privacy issue over the past couple of years (along with its refusal to recognize consumers’ uniform expectation of privacy) has only strengthened that view."

The FTC's approach to regulating edge provider privacy, which it oversees, focuses on the sensitivity of the data, and does not require opt in permission for sharing web browsing or app use information, which the FCC rules did.

“Moving forward, I want the American people to know that the FCC will work with the FTC to ensure that consumers’ online privacy is protected though a consistent and comprehensive framework," said Pai.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.