Access Now: Internet users deserve privacy. The U.S. Senate shouldn’t sell it away.

Washington D.C. (March 7, 2017) — Today U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced legislation that would repeal the U.S. Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) historic rulemaking to protect the privacy rights of internet users. The rule, enacted late last year, put common sense restrictions on how broadband internet service providers are able to use the sensitive information they collect about their customers. Senator Flake’s bill would invoke the Congressional Review Act to repeal the rule and prevent the FCC from taking steps to protect privacy rights in the future.

The broadband privacy rule was an important victory for internet users. Customers pay for access to the internet, but broadband providers want to collect personal data and sell it to make a second profit of their users. The rule put people in charge of how their data is used,” said Nathan White, Senior Legislative Manager at Access Now.  

The Congressional Review Act is a little-used mechanism that allows Congress to eliminate a rule after it has been created by an agency like the FCC. It also prevents the agency from enacting a “substantially similar” rule in the future. The FCC has exclusive authority to regulate broadband privacy, whereas the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates other industries. By using the CRA to undo the FCC’s broadband privacy rules, Congress would hamper federal agencies’ ability to protect users’ privacy.

The FCC is the only federal agency that has authority over broadband providers. If Congress were to pass this CRA, it would essentially create a privacy ‘black hole’ for broadband users. We urge Congress to think twice before selling out the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of users with such a blunt instrument,” said Drew Mitnick, Policy Counsel at Access Now.

Access Now previously submitted comments to the FCC in support of the broadband privacy rules, which addressed the following three themes:

  1. Consent gives users control over their data without prohibiting use by providers  
  2. Digital security and data breach notifications standards protect users and fortify user trust
  3. Appropriate privacy rules are not a major burden compared to the significant risks of not applying security and privacy protections