Notes on the FCC and Privacy in the US

I’ve been reading a lot about the repeal of the rules putting the FCC in charge of privacy for access providers in the US recently—a lot of it rising to the level of hysteria and “the end is near” level. As you have probably been reading these stories, as well, I thought it worthwhile to take a moment and point out two pieces that seem to be the most balanced and thought through out there.

Essentially—yes, privacy is still a concern, and no, the sky is not falling. The first is by Nick Feamster, who I’ve worked with in the past, and has always seemed to have a reasonable take on things. The second is by Shelly Palmer, who I don’t always agree with, but in this case I think his analysis is correct.

Last week, the House and Senate both passed a joint resolution that prevent’s the new privacy rules from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from taking effect; the rules were released by the FCC last November, and would have bound Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the United States to a set of practices concerning the collection and sharing of data about consumers. The rules were widely heralded by consumer advocates, and several researchers in the computer science community, including myself, played a role in helping to shape aspects of the rules. I provided input into the rules that helped preserve the use of ISP traffic data for research and protocol development. —CircleID

There has never been a reasonable expectation of online privacy, and there never will be. Regardless of what you may have recently heard about joint resolutions or nullifications, nothing has changed. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have always had the right to use your data as they see fit, within a few Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) parameters. This has not changed. And you have given FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) the right to use your data as they see fit (with a few privacy policy exceptions and within the few aforementioned FTC and FCC parameters). So regarding online privacy, for all practical purposes, absolutely nothing has changed. —Shelly Palmer


  1. alan.wijntje on 12 April 2017 at 4:05 am

    He Russ,

    thanks for the links always good to get past the “hype” and look a bit deeper at what is really going on (i.e not just look at what it means today but also tomorrow and the day after).

    As a European the ISP market in the US still baffles me, no real competition is allowed/tolerated by the incumbents which (I believe) in the long run will only harm innovation and competition.

    Techdirt has a long history of reporting on this situation and just published a podcast which talks about some of the underlying issues at stake here (net-neutrality, zero-rating, privacy etc) and is well worth listening to.



  2. Russ on 12 April 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Alan —

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’ll check the techdirt podcast out.