Overnight Regulation: FCC unveils Internet privacy rules

Welcome to Overnight Regulations, your daily rundown of news from Capitol Hill and beyond. It's Thursday evening here in Washington and we're a little surprised today's Judiciary Committee debate over whether to hold a hearing on a Supreme Court nominee didn't have more fireworks.



The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a new privacy rule forcing broadband Internet service providers to gain permission before they use or share customer data. 

Under the rule, customers would have to explicitly consent to their data being shared with other companies or used unless it's required to deliver service or needed to market affiliated services.

Consumers, however, can opt out of those conditions. 

Consumer group Free Press praised the move to maintain special privacy protections for customers.

"As with the social media sites or search engines we use, our broadband providers can monitor and misuse our most private information," the group's policy counsel Gaurav Laroia said in a statement. "But while we can choose among millions of options when it comes to websites and apps, we have little to no choice when it comes to our Internet service providers."

The Hill's David McCabe has more on the FCC's move:

The proposal also includes requirements for how soon after a data breach broadband providers are required to tell customers, the FCC and, in some cases, law enforcement agencies. It would also put standards in place to govern what kinds of steps companies must take to protect consumer data.

"Every broadband consumer should have the right to know what information is being collected and how it is used," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told the Huffington Post.

"Every broadband consumer should have the right to choose how their information bits should be used and shared. And every consumer should be confident that their information is being securely protected."

The proposed rules are at least a partial win for advocates who wanted the FCC to assert stronger privacy powers than the Federal Trade Commission, which used to govern privacy for broadband providers.

Industry groups say that the rules should be the same for Internet providers and online services like Google or Facebook that remain under the FTC's purview.

They argue that the FCC should align its rules with the standard used by the FTC, which bars unfair and deceptive practices. This approach, they say, would mean that consumers would be protected in the same way across all aspects of their Internet use, from the provider delivering their traffic to search engines and social networks.

But privacy advocates see an opportunity in the rulemaking to enable the FCC to be, as FTC commissioner Julie Brill put it in a November speech, the "brawnier cop on the privacy beat."



The Obama administration will publish 241 new regulations, proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Friday's edition of the Federal Register.

--The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will look to weaken protections for grizzly bears and black bears.

The FWS is removing Louisiana black bears from a list of threatened species, because "this subspecies has recovered" since they were first listed in 1992.

The changes for black bears go into effect in 30 days. http://bit.ly/1QKAIkP

The FWS will also propose removing grizzly bears near Yellowstone National Park from a list of threatened species.

The Greater Yellowstone population of grizzly bears was listed as threatened in 1975, but has since grown and tripled the space it occupies.

The public has 60 days to comment on the status of these grizzly bears. http://bit.ly/1SDCVQm

--The Department of Transportation (DOT) will propose to loosen the rules for modifying vehicles driven by people with disabilities.

The Transportation Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says the changes would "allow modifiers to replace a vehicles' original roof... with a raised or altered roof to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities."

The public has 60 days to comment. http://bit.ly/1RatCC0

--The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will delay new animal welfare rules.

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed new rules for the "humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of marine mammals in captivity" in February, but is now extending the comment period to give the public more time to consider the changes.

The public now has until May 4 to comment. http://bit.ly/1U5weaz



Grassley: Pressuring me on Supreme Court nominee 'won't work.' http://bit.ly/1P24M5P

Graham: I will vote for 'qualified' Clinton Supreme Court nominee. http://bit.ly/1XfAuCz

Feds sued over butterfly protections. http://bit.ly/1WcSbm1

Feds weaken protections for bears. http://bit.ly/226E05z

Oil lobby: New methane rules threaten boom. http://bit.ly/226EoRC

California lawmakers vote to make smoking age 21. http://bit.ly/1QHTms9



5.6 million: Number of young people the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids estimates will die prematurely due to a smoking-related illness.

500,000: How many Americans die from smoking-related illnesses each year. 


We'll work to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill's Regulation page (http://thehill.com/regulation) early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, tdevaney@thehill.com or lwheeler@thehill.com. And follow us at @timdevaney and @wheelerlydia.

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