Today, the United States Senate voted to pass a joint resolution dismantling online privacy protections created by the Federal Communications Commission’s 2016 Broadband Privacy Order by way of the Congressional Review Act. This bill not only terminates the FCC’s privacy rules but also prevents the agency from creating similar privacy protections in the future.
In the early months of the Trump Administration, damaging leaks have come out of the White House ranging from stories of staff infighting to descriptions of the President’s calls with heads of state. According to a recent Politico report, the leaks have caused a culture of paranoia to spread among White House staff. Staffers are taking extreme measures to protect their privacy by turning off work-issued smartphones when they get home, and using encrypted messaging apps that automatically delete messages once they’ve been read. Others are leaving their personal mobile devices at home in the event their bosses and Administration lawyers engage in phone checks and search for leaks. While White House staffers scramble to protect their private communications, Congress is moving in the opposite direction to eliminate any expectations of Americans having private communications networks.
Today, Public Knowledge sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ranking Member Michael Doyle (R-IL), and full Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), and Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) urging Congress to take steps to close the digital divide by promoting investments in broadband deployment and competitive, affordable broadband choices for consumers.
One significant threat to the public interest under the new administration that is receiving increased attention is broadband privacy for consumers. Last week, Senator Jeff Flake and 21 cosponsors introduced a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules. In late October, after over six months of deliberation, the FCC passed rules governing how Internet Service Providers use the personal information that they collect on their customers. Put simply, ISPs would be required to obtain opt-in consent before using anything sensitive like web browsing history, your location, financial information, and information relating to children.
Yesterday, New York City filed a complaint alleging that Verizon breached its 2008 franchise agreement with the city. Reports indicate the city claims Verizon “has failed to make its service available to at least ‘tens of thousands’ of prospective customers and has refused to accept service requests from many others.”