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FCC Moves to Stop Broadband Providers From Gathering Consumer’s Personal Data Without Permission

The FCC chairman hypes his proposal as a comprehensive solution to Internet privacy issues, but critics disagree

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The Federal Communications Commission’s recent decision to advance a proposal to prohibit broadband providers from amassing consumer data without express consent is being met with criticism for failing to apply the proposed broadband privacy rules to websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, that arguably have deeper access to users’ personal information and online activity than do providers.

Proposed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the regulation, which won initial approval with a 3-2 vote on Thursday, would do nothing to ban data collection protocols; it would only require that broadband providers obtain consent from and disclose to consumers what information is being collected, how it’s being used, and when it will be shared. The measure would also oblige ISPs to protect customer data and be more forthright with users about breaches by informing them within 10 days of one having occurred.

“It’s the consumers’ information and the consumer should have the right to determine how it’s used,” says Wheeler.

Although it may not be so simple. The FCC chairman hypes his proposal as a comprehensive solution to Internet privacy issues, but critics disagree, pointing to the plan’s conspicuous exclusion of social networks, messaging applications, search engines and operating systems from its scope. The regulation, according to Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai, “favors one set of corporate interests over another.”

Opponents argue that Wheeler’s proposal also may bestow consumers with a false sense of privacy instead of awareness that their personal information, despite privacy regulations, still has the potential to be hacked. Harold Furchtgott-Roth and Arielle Roth write in Forbes, “The Internet is composed of many entities … and it is naïve to think that any single company or government agency can offer comprehensive protection.”

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