The US federal appeals court ruling on Tuesday upholding the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules and saying broadband internet access providers can be regulated like telephone companies is a big win for consumers, Consumer Watchdog said, adding that the FCC must now rapidly enact important privacy protections.
“The court has recognized that the internet has become so essential to our daily lives that broadband internet access providers should be regulated as a utility,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director in Santa Monica, Calif. “Now the FCC must enact key privacy rules to protect consumers.”
Net neutrality rules prohibit ISPs, like Comcast and Verizon, from slowing or blocking internet traffic to a consumer. It also forbids them from charging a premium to speed traffic from a website. The FCC issued its Open Internet order last year. This spring it began a rule making to enact privacy regulations that are designed to give consumers control over how their ISP can share their personal information.
“Broadband privacy regulations are a necessary first step and will protect consumers from abuses by their ISP and must be enacted as soon as possible,” said Simpson. “ISPs have a unique position and can see everything a consumer does online.”
However, Consumer Watchdog said there are still substantial privacy threats raised by the data collection practices of so-called edge providers like Google and Facebook that ultimately must be tackled. The FCC could use its Section 706 authority to write rules to cover edge providers, Consumer Watchdog said, but the agency has so far opted not to do so. It rejected a petition last year from Consumer Watchdog seeking a rule that would require edge providers to honor do-not-track requests.
“Remaining privacy concerns about edge providers must not be an excuse to do nothing about ISP privacy rules,” said Simpson. “Just because you can’t do everything at once, doesn’t mean you should do nothing.”