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Consumers Will Still Have Choices

Robert M. McDowell

Relax. Privacy protection laws are not going away. And it’s still against the law for anyone to sell your most sensitive personal information to the highest bidder.

Saying otherwise makes for sensational headlines, but American consumers deserve better than fear-mongering. They deserve strong, consistent and sensible public policy that protects their privacy regardless of what type of Internet company possesses their data.

Most consumers are unaware that a 2015 Federal Communications Commission decision stripped the Federal Trade Commission’s power to protect the privacy of customers of Internet service providers. To make matters worse, in 2016 the FCC imposed new, different privacy regulations only on ISPs, not other types of Internet companies.

How does that make sense? Do we really think it’s good for consumers to allow Internet company A to use some of their data but not Internet company B, even with the same exact data? Or, what happens when consumers want to file a complaint: Do they contact the FTC or FCC?

In short, the FCC’s privacy regime created more questions than it answered.

Under existing privacy laws, thousands of online companies — apps, search engines, websites — use consumer data each day, driving the digital economy. Moreover, almost every U.S. ISP has committed to a set of principles consistent with the FTC’s effective and long-standing privacy rules.

Consumers will continue to have strong privacy protections. Providers will still inform their customers about their privacy policies and practices, and customers will continue to have choices about how providers use their data.

Those who argue that American consumers now have no online privacy protections are just plain wrong.

Even better, the chairs of the FCC and the FTC recently committed to create one set of strong and practical privacy rules that apply evenly across the entire Internet ecosystem. That’s the smart public policy consumers deserve.

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