Advertisers are supporting Republican senators’ move to kill Obama-era internet privacy rules that limit how internet service providers use and sell costumer data.
The law was passed in October 2016, a few days prior to the presidential election, going through in a 3-2 vote along party lines, but has since faced antagonism from major ISPs and advertisers.
After the election, an alliance of ad industry agencies filed a petition requesting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider their decision to adopt what the group described as a “fundamentally flawed” internet privacy order.
While there was no guarantee their request would be considered, the announcement that Ajit Pai – a man who voted against and has openly opposed the new internet privacy rule – would take the helm at the FCC, the industry joined hands with other groups to ask that the rule be repealed altogether.
The matter is already in Congress; Senator Jeff Blake introduced a resolution earlier this month that aims to reverse the rule via the Congressional Review Act (CRA) – a seldom-used law that has been applied to several cases in the recent weeks to toss recently approved federal regulations.
He was backed by 34 other senators and had a companion measure introduced by Representative Marsha Blackburn, who is the chair of a House panel on telecommunications.
Pai blocked part of the new internet privacy rules, which required service providers to engage in “reasonable security practices” in the wake of a data breach, just a week into his reign and a day before the section was scheduled to be effected.
The whole set of the new internet privacy rules – including the most dreaded section by the ISP community, which requires that they seek consumer consent before selling or using precise location, financial information, information about children, health information and app usage and web-browsing history for internal marketing and advertising – is now at risk of being retracted.
In a joint statement with FTC chairperson Maureen Ohlhausen, Pai expressed his desire in seeing the FTC regain privacy enforcement authority and the rules regarding what information should be considered sensitive loosened.
It should be noted that the FTC only considers health, financial, social security number, geolocation and information relating to children as sensitive.
App usage and web browsing history were added by the FCC, who cited the ability of an ISP to deduce political views and sexual orientation through this information as the reason they deemed it sensitive.
Understandably, the new internet privacy rules would slow the fast-augmenting target marketing practice, which is proving quite superior in efficiency and economy.
To their defense, however, the group of advertising agencies dwelled more on the implication such rules would pose on the country’s economy and the imbalance it would bring among the marketing giants given the fact that the likes of Verizon and AT&T would be affected while Facebook and Twitter would not.
“We support the objective of ensuring that consumers’ activities are subject to privacy and data security protections that match consumer expectations and long standing privacy provisions that have both ensured the consumers are protected from harm and allowed the internet to flourish,” the group said in a statement. “The FCC’s order, however, would significantly harm both the consumers and our nation’s digital economy.”
The group went on to heap praise on their new House allies Senator Flake and Congressman Blackburn for using the Congressional Review Act to such “positive effect,” urging the Congress to rally behind their colleagues and act quickly on repealing the new internet privacy order.
In support of self-regulatory internet privacy programs, Group Executive Vice President of Government Relations for ANA, Dan Jaffe said that the unprecedented privacy order would distort the entire online advertising ecosystem by granting some ad channels a competitive edge and inflicting an apparent disadvantage on others.
That said, the proposal hasn’t gone down well with Democrats and internet privacy agencies; Senator Ed Markey, a member of the committee overseeing the FCC, accused Republican congresspersons and big broadband barons of plotting to take from consumers the ability to dictate how they want their private information handled.
Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy echoed Markey’s sentiments and went on to assert that the big advertisement agencies are secretly collecting virtually everything consumers do online and are shrinking from the uncertain future under the new FCC internet privacy rules.
The CRA enables the congress to veto regulations implemented by a federal agency such as the FCC and can well forbid it from passing similar regulations in the future.
Internet privacy advocates may be facing a loss to the advertising and ISP communities in the near future.