The Truth About Broadband Privacy

Federal Communication Commission (FCC) ChairmanTom Wheeler, center, joins hands with FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, left, and Jessica Rosenworcel, before the start of their open hearing in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015. Internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile would have to act in the "public interest" when providing a mobile connection to your home or phone, under new rules being considered by the Federal Communications Commission. The rules would put the Internet in the same regulatory camp as the telephone, banning providers from "unjust or unreasonable" business practices. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Republicans repealed a sweeping new FCC regulation passed as Democrats were on the way out the door late last year. The usual suspects are screaming that you should panic, but the repeal was the right thing to do.

The outrage peddlers are of course peddling outrage:

https://twitter.com/hshaban/status/844958842895171584

But here’s the truth: the regulation as passed went too far, and was probably illegal to begin with. It was spun that ISPs would “sell information” about you, including your social security number, to advertisers. But that’s never what it was about, at all.

Nobody was looking to sell your SSN or your medical records. Such things are already protected under the law anyway. No, this was about basic, industry-standard advertising practices, and specifically about barring ISPs from getting into that market. This was regulation about picking winners and losers by preventing new entrants into an existing market. As now-Chairman Ajit Pai said at the time:

“If the FCC truly believes that these new rules are necessary to protect consumer privacy, then the government now must move forward to ensure uniform regulation of all companies in the Internet ecosystem at the new baseline the FCC has set,” said FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who suggested that the Federal Trade Commission could accomplish the task.

But the Obama administration was never going to move against Google in that way. Google’s business model depends on that kind of information trade, and such strong regulations were never going to be levied against them. Therefore this was an unfair regulation, picking winners and losers, passed under false pretenses by the outgoing administration just before the election.

Your privacy was not going to be protected by the regulation. The only thing the regulation would change is who was the one violating your privacy. We shouldn’t be picking winners and losers, so it was good to repeal the regulation.