FCC’s Proposed Privacy Rules Misses the Mark

Today marks the deadline for filing comments into the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) docket on Broadband Privacy. Based upon the language in their proposed rules, the Commission would like the American public to believe that they have a clear path forward to adequately protect consumer data online.

This could not be more false.

As I wrote earlier this year in my Forbes piece, Consumer Privacy Protections Must Work For Everyone, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do not have the ability to collect all of the same intrusive information large web and online companies have. In fact, the FCC’s rules patently omit the practices of large online companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon, who have the broadest perspective into consumer data due to cross-device tracking and tailored consumer profiles via social media.

This gap also rings true when it comes to mobile devices. Device manufacturers have the ability to collect and monetize user information, while recent studies indicate the two dominant operating systems in the mobile device market (Apple and Google) use encryption software to prevent ISPs from collecting similar data.

Simply stated, the problem the FCC is looking to address is not an ISP problem, it is a larger web-ecosystem problem. Given the complex and comprehensive nature of the data collection practices today, policymakers, regulators and privacy activists must work together to deter privacy violations, misuses and breaches across the entire ecosystem.

If the FCC has a true interest in protecting consumers – given the storied jurisdictional issues regarding ISPs and online content providers – they should step aside and allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take the lead when it comes to online privacy matters to guarantee they are applied in a technologically neutral manner.

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