Conservative groups ask Congress to rescind FCC privacy rules

Conservative groups ask Congress to rescind FCC privacy rules
© Greg Nash

Conservative groups are urging Congress to roll back the broadband privacy rules that were enacted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders, the groups asked the lawmakers to use their Congressional Review Act authority to rescind the FCC’s Broadband Privacy Order. The letter’s signees include the telecom industry-aligned NetCompetition as well as free-market groups like Americans for Tax Reform and FreedomWorks.

“Congress is fully justified in rescinding these rules both because the Order lacks proper legal grounding and because of the need to ensure real consumer privacy across contexts of user experience,” the letter reads.

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The regulations were passed in October and require internet service providers to obtain permission from customers before using their browsing and app usage data.

The FCC gained authority to regulate privacy under the net neutrality rules it implemented in 2015, which reclassified broadband providers as utilities. Conservatives have criticized the rules in part because they effectively eliminate the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to police privacy regulations.

Thursday’s letter questioned the legality of the net neutrality rules that provided the basis for the privacy regulation, even though it has survived a number of legal challenges.

“Rescinding the Privacy Order would promote both innovation and effective, consistent privacy protections in over-the-top, application, wireless and wireline markets,” reads the letter. “It would also send a clear signal that the FCC has lost its way in interpreting the statute Congress gave it.”

The letter has not received a response yet from the top lawmakers of both parties, but House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking mMember Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) promised to fight any efforts to undermine consumers’ privacy.

"It's clear that privacy critics feel emboldened to push for the elimination of privacy protections for American consumers, no matter the platform,” Pallone said in a statement. “This demand to gut the Federal Communications Commission is only the latest move and comes after ongoing attempts to hamstring the Federal Trade Commission.”

“Consumers should not have to worry about their financial, medical and other personal information begin shared without their permission.”