Sources: WH Privacy Bill Does Not Undercut FCC

According to public advocacy sources familiar with the proposed privacy legislation expected to be released by the White House Friday, the administration has dropped a provision that would have allowed companies to bypass FCC privacy rules on customer information, broadband, phone and video through a self-regulatory code of conduct overseen by the FTC.

That proposal had troubled some congressional Democrats as well as FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and Public Knowledge president Gene Kimmelman. 

In the view of a source, the bill still weakens privacy protections, essentially by emphasizing multistakeholder codes of conduct, which those multistakeholders, including cable operators and marketers, have supported.

One source said the bill would establish industry review boards, weaken the FTC's unfairness authority by providing a safe harbor for companies complying with the codes, and gives the FTC only a 90-day window to approve or deny codes.

The same sources had suggested earlier in the week that the White House might be rethinking that part of its bill, given the Democratic pushback and that the President has supported a Title II approach to FCC open Internet rules that would move some privacy oversight from the FTC to the FCC.

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.