Agency Heads Move to Curtail Privacy Critics

President Donald Trump this week signed into law a congressional joint resolution nullifying a broadband privacy order pushed through the FCC last fall by former Chairman Tom Wheeler. This move by the Senate, House, and President to use the levers of the Congressional Review Act as a check on the Executive Branch stirred significant concerns in some quarters about online privacy rights, so Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and Acting Federal Trade Commission Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen crafted a joint article to quell fears.

“April Fools’ Day came early last week, as professional lobbyists lit a wildfire of misinformation about Congress’s action,” the chairmen said. They explained how the root of the problem with the Wheeler era rule was its basis in the FCC’s net neutrality order that muddied the FTC’s longtime authority to protect consumer privacy. In addition, they noted the Wheeler rule formed “a fractured privacy framework” where broadband providers faced one standard and content providers like Google and Facebook had another.  Pai and Ohlhausen said, “The Obama FTC, in a unanimous bipartisan comment, criticized this approach as ‘not optimal.’ In Washington-speak, that’s a major rebuke.”

The chairs concluded, “Put simply, the Chicken Little-like reaction doesn’t make any sense, particularly when compared with the virtual silence when the FCC stripped away existing privacy protections in 2015.” They then pledged that they would work together in defense of internet privacy.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: April 7, 2017

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