Liberals push fake news on internet privacy

The debate over internet privacy rages on.  Why does this issue keep cropping up?  Since the time the internet became available over twenty years ago, it has been regulated by Federal Trade Commission privacy rules, and the rules for privacy protection and data collection-monitoring have worked well.

Let's be clear: this isn't about internet privacy or some technology upgrade.  This is about a Federal Communications Commission power-grab promulgated by the left to promote their own agenda – first, by the controlling of consumer preferences above and beyond the FTC time-tested approach of allowing the market to work.  Market forces are allowed to work because current regulation enforces the promises companies make to consumers online about privacy protection, but it does not mandate that companies make privacy promises.  Consumer demand and competition are allowed to work under the current structure and determine company commitment to online privacy concerns.

The Federal Communications Commission has a different approach.  It wants to mandate specific opt-in, opt-out rules for broadband ISPs with regard to privacy and data collection.

This is classic federal agency overreach, and here is why it is a problem:

  1. The FCC wants to reclassify internet service providers as utilities.  This reclassification would take the ability to compete away from the internet service provider, lowering incentives.  Had this reclassification gone forward later this year as planned, the ability of the FTC to continue with its more balanced data collection and usage policies would have been usurped as the Federal Trade Commission has no power to regulate utilities.
  2. Opt-in, opt-out mandates: Data usage prohibitions would be levied for the preferences of a few online users, without regard to widely held consumer preferences.  Such a practice would not enhance, but rather restrict consumer choice and increase costs.  Rules for usage of data by online users would be much more restrictive, and the customer would have to give explicit permission for use of data for advertising purposes.

According to its website, the FCC was chartered to regulate interstate and international radio, TV, wire, cable, and satellite communications, and to do so in a fashion that promotes competition, innovation, and investment.  These rules would do just the opposite.  Let's end this debate concerning a nonexistent problem in a system that is already functioning as it should.

The House and Senate voted in early April to block this FCC rulemaking, before the Obama-era FCC actions could go into effect this December, and this effort has been tabled, with President Trump signing it into law.  Internet service providers are now prohibited from using customer data, leaving in place the enforcement mechanism of the FTC with respect to company privacy promises.

So as it now stands, the internet service provider does not have to get the individual users' permission before using data to advertise and to be able to compete with the two giants, Google and Facebook, in the online ad market.  Leaving the current system in place will keep costs down and continue a fair amount of regulation.

There is a larger problem here: federal agency overreach – overreach that often causes power-grabs and turf wars on the part of one agency or another, misuses of authority, and measures that are redundant or ultimately harmful that can be avoided by the Congress.

Congress has the power to end to out-of-control rulemaking with its oversight powers.

And it needs to use it.

Peter Weyrich is a longtime conservative activist who has worked for a variety of pro-free market organizations including the Free Congress Foundation and Coalitions for America.

The debate over internet privacy rages on.  Why does this issue keep cropping up?  Since the time the internet became available over twenty years ago, it has been regulated by Federal Trade Commission privacy rules, and the rules for privacy protection and data collection-monitoring have worked well.

Let's be clear: this isn't about internet privacy or some technology upgrade.  This is about a Federal Communications Commission power-grab promulgated by the left to promote their own agenda – first, by the controlling of consumer preferences above and beyond the FTC time-tested approach of allowing the market to work.  Market forces are allowed to work because current regulation enforces the promises companies make to consumers online about privacy protection, but it does not mandate that companies make privacy promises.  Consumer demand and competition are allowed to work under the current structure and determine company commitment to online privacy concerns.

The Federal Communications Commission has a different approach.  It wants to mandate specific opt-in, opt-out rules for broadband ISPs with regard to privacy and data collection.

This is classic federal agency overreach, and here is why it is a problem:

  1. The FCC wants to reclassify internet service providers as utilities.  This reclassification would take the ability to compete away from the internet service provider, lowering incentives.  Had this reclassification gone forward later this year as planned, the ability of the FTC to continue with its more balanced data collection and usage policies would have been usurped as the Federal Trade Commission has no power to regulate utilities.
  2. Opt-in, opt-out mandates: Data usage prohibitions would be levied for the preferences of a few online users, without regard to widely held consumer preferences.  Such a practice would not enhance, but rather restrict consumer choice and increase costs.  Rules for usage of data by online users would be much more restrictive, and the customer would have to give explicit permission for use of data for advertising purposes.

According to its website, the FCC was chartered to regulate interstate and international radio, TV, wire, cable, and satellite communications, and to do so in a fashion that promotes competition, innovation, and investment.  These rules would do just the opposite.  Let's end this debate concerning a nonexistent problem in a system that is already functioning as it should.

The House and Senate voted in early April to block this FCC rulemaking, before the Obama-era FCC actions could go into effect this December, and this effort has been tabled, with President Trump signing it into law.  Internet service providers are now prohibited from using customer data, leaving in place the enforcement mechanism of the FTC with respect to company privacy promises.

So as it now stands, the internet service provider does not have to get the individual users' permission before using data to advertise and to be able to compete with the two giants, Google and Facebook, in the online ad market.  Leaving the current system in place will keep costs down and continue a fair amount of regulation.

There is a larger problem here: federal agency overreach – overreach that often causes power-grabs and turf wars on the part of one agency or another, misuses of authority, and measures that are redundant or ultimately harmful that can be avoided by the Congress.

Congress has the power to end to out-of-control rulemaking with its oversight powers.

And it needs to use it.

Peter Weyrich is a longtime conservative activist who has worked for a variety of pro-free market organizations including the Free Congress Foundation and Coalitions for America.