Privacy On The Internet – Rules and Legislation

As you perused the Internet recently, you may have seen articles with titles like this one:

House Republicans just voted to let your internet provider sell your browsing history without your permission

That is an article in Business Insider. The title is misleading.

I saw and read some of these articles, and also saw and read posts on Facebook and Twitter, and I commented at least once on Facebook that I would do my own investigation and make up my mind then. So I did that, and here is what I found.

This is the text of Senate Joint Resolution 34:

S. J. RES. 34

JOINT RESOLUTION

Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission relating to Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services.

That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission relating to Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services (81 Fed. Reg. 87274 (December 2, 2016)), and such rule shall have no force or effect.

Speaker of the House of Representatives

Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate

According to govtrack:

A Republican bill would block a regulation of President Obama’s that they see as executive overreach, but privacy advocates claim it could allow companies to sell your private Internet and search history. Who’s right?

The context and what the bill does

The Federal Trade Commission maintains jurisdiction over most aspects of the Internet. But after the 2016 election during the lame-duck session, another Washington agency called the Federal Communications Commission issued new regulations related specifically to Internet service providers, also known as ISPs. (You’ve probably heard of some of the country’s biggest ISPs, which include Comcast, Verizon, AT&T;, Time Warner, Cox, and CenturyLink.)

These new rules required all Internet browsing data, as well as data regarding app usage on mobile devices, be subject to the same privacy requirements as sensitive or private personal information. This overtook the previous rule by the FTC, the agency which previously had authority over regulating ISP’s and differentiated privacy requirements based upon the sensitivity of the information, with more stringent rules for such things as health information or Social Security numbers. The methods are also more invasive to the ISP companies, since the FCC also issues pre-emptive regulations while the FTC primarily conducted investigations.

Introduced by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) — chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law — and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN7), Senate Joint Resolution 34 and House Joint Resolution 86 are companion bills that would nullify the FCC’s rule. However, they would not return jurisdiction over regulating ISP’s back to the FTC, as they were previously.

[NOTE: I don’t think that this last statement is correct; at least I don’t see any indication of that, since the resolution only says that “Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission” and “such rule shall have no force or effect.”]

What supporters say

Many Republicans saw these new rules as a power grab during the closing days of the Obama Administration. The rule was issued on December 2, 2016 and took effect on January 3, 2017, less than three weeks before President Trump took office. Supporters of the bill argue that the legislation would prevent the one-size-fits-all regulation.

“Under the FTC’s watch, our internet and data economy has been the envy of the world. The agency’s evidence-based approach calibrates privacy and data-security requirements to the sensitivity of information collected,” Senate lead sponsor Flake wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

“The FCC rules subject all web browsing and app usage data to the same restrictive requirements as sensitive personal information. That means that information generated from looking up the latest Cardinals score or checking the weather in Scottsdale is treated the same as personal health and financial data.”

ISP companies also contended that the FCC rules have placed them at a disadvantage with other non-ISP Internet companies that also collect user data, like Netflix or Facebook.

What opponents say

Privacy advocates warn that the legislation could produce dire consequences for consumer privacy, with Privacy News Online calling it “a bill to let telecoms sell your private Internet history.”

“Its goal is to remove all the hard-earned net neutrality regulations gained to protect your internet history from advertisers and worse,” they wrote. “Specifically, the FCC had been able to prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from spying on your internet history, and selling what they gathered, without express permission. This legal protection on your internet history is currently under attack thanks to these 24 Senators and lots of ISP lobbying spend.”

That’s not false, as ISPs have been previously shown to sell user data to third parties, who in turn use it for marketing or other purposes.

This is what the White House said about this matter:

S.J.Res. 34 – Disapproving the Federal Communications Commission’s Rule on Privacy of Customers of Broadband Services
(Sen. Flake, R-AZ, and 24 cosponsors)

The Administration strongly supports House passage of S.J.Res. 34, which would nullify the Federal Communications Commission’s final rule titled “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunication Services,” 81 Fed. Reg. 87274 (December 2, 2016). The rule applies the privacy requirements of the Communications Act of 1934 to broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other telecommunications carriers. In particular, the rule requires ISPs to obtain affirmative “opt-in” consent from consumers to use and share certain information, including app usage and web browsing history. It also allows ISPs to use and share other information, including e-mail addresses and service tier information, unless a customer “opts-out.” In doing so, the rule departs from the technology-neutral framework for online privacy administered by the Federal Trade Commission. This results in rules that apply very different regulatory regimes based on the identity of the online actor.

If S.J.Res. 34 were presented to the President, his advisors would recommend that he sign the bill into law.

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33 Responses to Privacy On The Internet – Rules and Legislation

  1. Cetera says:

    Personally, I like the regs, and don’t want Trump to sign it. Of course my idiot Senator is behind it.

    Ultimately, the entire premise behind this law comes down to “the big entities can F***-over their users, so we need to be allowed to do so as well, or we won’t be able to make as much money and stay competitive!

    In my radical view, all traffic to and from my router onto my ISP network should be protected every bit as much as any phone call I make through my phone provider, or anything I send or receive via the USPS.

    Just because the traffic is electronic, and easily snoopable, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be allowed. Tampering with the mail is a federal offense. I would not accept my phone company listening to my phone calls and then using that info to send me targeted ads based on what I talk about with my friends.

    Personally, I also think it should be illegal for google, facebook, et al to have your data leave their organization for any reason, same as medical information. It should be flat out illegal for any entity to sell consumer data to another entity, without the expressed written consent for each individual transaction by the consumer whom the data is on. That is even more of a pipe-dream, however.

    I also was a big proponent of the net neutrality that the Obama admin did. He was an evil, evil dude, but he had a few advisors that did steer him in the right direction there.

    At this point, the ISPs can go pound sand, in my humble view. My cable internet bill is now $110 per month. Remember how everyone was pissy about net neutrality, and how it would bankrupt the ISPs if everyone cut their TV and just streamed Netflix instead? Turns out, the free market was able to figure out a way around that. My internet-only connection now costs as much as the full TV and internet package cost 5 years ago. Granted, I’m now getting 350 Mbps down, and 25 Mbps up, which is fantastic. We’re finally starting to catch up to modern internet deployments in this country, and I need it for work. But egads, $110/mo?

    Like

    • stella says:

      In my view, the only thing this resolution does is get the FCC out of the mix, and prevent Google from having an upper hand . I was against them butting in their noses from the beginning, and that includes net neutrality. The day is coming very soon that you will have a choice (I already do) to use your ISP, or not. As you say, the free market finds a way. Get the FCC out of it. The regs that are being rescinded have only been in place since early January, and I am fairly certain that you don’t know one way or another what was intended.

      In other words, I think you are dead wrong.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Cetera says:

        LOL, that’s OK Stella. Nothing new on that front. I suspect you will continue to disagree with me, particularly on tech issues. I don’t mind.

        As far as ISP choice, 90% of the country will not have a choice for the foreseeable future. Franchise agreements with municipalities and counties have made that an impossibility, locking in monopolies and failing to provide incentive for competitive development, like they were sold to the public who voted for them, or who’s reps did.

        Google is an evil corporation. They are horrible. Maybe not as bad as Apple, but still right up there near the very top. I’m not supporting them in this fight. I stand by the principle that no public or private entity should be allowed to sell information on individuals gleaned in the process of conducting business with that individual, without that individual being a party to each and every transaction, period, no exceptions. I don’t care who violates that. Just about everyone does, but it doesn’t matter. It is malicious, and shouldn’t be tolerated, whether it is the IRS, google, your local ISP, facebook, or your landlord/mortgage company.

        The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

        I realize that applies only to the gov’t, but it should apply as a general principle to all factors of life.

        Like

        • stella says:

          I think you are mixing net neutrality (which still stands) and the joint resolution. Why you would support FCC controls when the FTC controls were much more comprehensive is a mystery.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Cetera says:

            No, I’m not mixing them. I was just talking about a tangentially-related issue. I don’t particularly care that Obama implemented these rules as a lame duck just weeks before Trump took over. That isn’t a reason to dismiss them, if they are good rules.

            I was drawing a corollary to the Net Neutrality rules that Obama did, and was just about the only damn thing Obama did that was actually a net positive for folks. I pointed out that the result of those Net Neutrality rules was my internet bill skyrocketing in price. That could be mitigated by eliminating licensed monopolies, but one thing at a time.

            As far as the FCC vs the FTC, I don’t particularly care who or what the enforcement mechanism is. These rules that are getting rolled back should be expanded, to cover Google, MS, Apple, Facef**k, and more. If they want to “repeal and replace” with something better, fine, but they don’t. Particularly not with Flake being involved. He’ll move to whatever policy gets him more money from lobbyists. He’s not a conservative, or a Conservative, or a libertarian, or a small-gov’t guy. He’s a shill, he’s a mercenary, and he will sell his vote and his soul to the highest bidder.

            Like

        • stella says:

          P.S.: Does that 90% figure have any basis in statistics or just a guess?

          Let me help you. This article is from 2014. The title is “Almost one-third of U.S. households have no choice for broadband internet service”. Slightly less than 90%, I think.

          I have three choices in my area. In 2014 I only had two. Things are changing.

          Like

            • Cetera says:

              You’re welcome to point out any factual errors in anything I’ve posted. Most of it is off the top of my head, but stems from roughly 10 years of research and professional experience.

              Define “choice.” Sure, you can get CenturyLink just about anywhere you can get POTS phone service here in the western U.S. But unless you live within about 200 feet of their loop, the best service you can get from them is 1.5 Mbps down, and about 700k up. They count as a “choice” even though it isn’t much better than dial-up.

              You could also contract with a company to run a T3 line to your house, at the cost of about $3k per month, for a speed about 1/10th what I’m currently getting via my cable company. That’s also a “choice.”

              If you can’t get at least 30 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up, there is no possibility of doing any meaningful telework, video or audio conferencing, screensharing, or document collaboration. If you’re getting less than 20 Mbps down, you’re often going to have issues streaming even compressed HD video for media consumption. Without at least 5 Mbps up, there’s no chance of streaming any kind of content to YouTube as a content creator, and even doing uploads will take many, many hours.

              How many cable companies are allowed to exist in any given city or metropolitan area? They are generally the only ones who have the tech and infrastructure to provide meaningful ISP services to the U.S. public. Their competition is restricted by law.

              Like

              • stella says:

                I have two cable companies and ATT fiber service in my area. And satellite service, of course.

                Perhaps you can look up the statistics on what you are discussing instead of asking more questions. As I have said, facts are much more welcome than endless speculation, which is what you seem to have on offer today.

                “How many cable companies are allowed to exist in any given city or metropolitan area?” First, the question is vague – a city and a metropolitan area are two different things, and a metropolitan area has no legal standing. Why don’t you go find the answers and let us know the facts?

                And yes, I am “welcome to point out any factual errors …” Thanks for your permission on my blog. LOL!!!

                Liked by 3 people

                • Cetera says:

                  The quality of hospitality on your blog seems to have lessened as of late, Stella.

                  Like

                  • stella says:

                    Maybe you can find some facts and present them. Could be why I am losing patience, Cetera. You have a lot of fact-free words that you put on paper lately. Sounds good, but doesn’t do much for me. Sort of like whipped cream. Lots of volume.

                    Liked by 1 person

                  • Cetera says:

                    I’m especially enjoying the personal insults, and the complete lack of addressing any of the points that I have made, dismissing them entirely as “opinions.” That isn’t an argument.

                    Like

                  • stella says:

                    You know what? Get out and stay out. I’m sick of your crap. You have no right to tell me how I should run my blog. Too bad that you feel “insulted.” Perhaps you earned it. You always have had a bit of that control freak vibe, and it has been on full display lately.

                    Liked by 1 person

                • Cetera says:

                  No, the question isn’t vague. I’ll tell you how it is in most places in the western half of the U.S.
                  There is one cable provider that services your location.

                  In the rare instance where there is more than one cable provider in a municipality, the territory is delineated with hard and fast lines. One one street, you will get Comcast. On another, you will get some small mom-and-pop shop, or maybe Bresnan or some other outfit that is purchased every other year by a different org, ’cause they can’t stay in business.

                  Here’s a link from the FCC report from 2016 outlining broadband availability:
                  https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/reports/broadband-progress-reports/2016-broadband-progress-report

                  They define “broadband” as a 25 down, 3 up service. That is the absolute bare minimum for doing any kind of telework, and I guarantee you will have issues on occassion with nothing more demanding than a Skype call, because your upload is too slow, and oversold.

                  Even so, 10% of the general populace doesn’t have ANY option, and 40% of rural folk don’t have ANY option to get 25/3 service, let alone having multiple choices.

                  If you have great access where you live, that’s fantastic. You’re very, very fortunate. I shop for places to live based on internet access so I can do my work, and when you do that, you’ll be shocked at how many places can’t meet your basic needs.

                  Also, satellite never counts as an option either. The latency is too high for any meaningful use other than a one-way stream with no interactivity. They are usually metered at exorbitant costs, too.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • stella says:

                    10% of all Americans sounds like a pretty small percentage to me, considering that they probably don’t live in or near a city. Heck, many rural Americans didn’t have electricity until the 1950’s. As for the internet speed, I didn’t use 25 up/3 down myself until quite recently. Lower speeds were pretty adequate for me, and I’m on the internet a lot. If I worked from home, I would have upgraded sooner, probably. I think the FCC used the 25 up/3 down for a reason – to attempt to make a case that internet providers aren’t doing their jobs. After all, they were on the warpath against ISP’s at the time this report was written.

                    ADD: The 10% figure is for Americans who don’t have access to 25 up/3 down, not that 10% don’t have broadband access.

                    Like

                  • stella says:

                    “On one street, you will get Comcast. On another, you will get some small mom-and-pop shop, or maybe Bresnan or some other outfit that is purchased every other year by a different org, ’cause they can’t stay in business.”

                    Perhaps they can’t stay in business because they aren’t able to pay the bills with the number of people who subscribe. I hope you don’t think that the government should mandate what service must be provided by private companies. Internet connection isn’t a right.

                    Like

            • Cetera says:

              BTW, that article is a joke. No one with any credibility was listing a 10/1.5 connection as “broadband” in 2014. So all of those figures are going to decrease, drastically. Which ends up coming right back to my point, that there isn’t “choice” for the consumer, nor for businesses who require the connectivity to do business.

              Like

              • stella says:

                Like I said – go get some facts and cite them. I’m not interested in your further speculations.

                Like

              • stella says:

                So you say. I question that contention. And most businesses don’t use the same type of connection that you have in your home. You surely must know that?

                The discussion we are having has to do with home broadband availability. Because a person works at home doesn’t make it a business, or his ISP connection a business connection.

                Like

    • nyetneetot says:

      “…..my ISP network should be protected every bit as much as any phone call I make through my phone provider, or anything I send or receive via the USPS.”

      Which means not at all.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. texan59 says:

    Well….That was short and sweet. Glad I’m not around much when the snot starts slinging during the day. 😱

    Liked by 4 people

  3. jeans2nd says:

    My turn. (will start no flame wars – promise)
    Saw this coming well over a year ago.
    For framing/ reference, think back to the phone wars.

    Telegraph and then telephone wire infrastructure existed well before electric infrastructure. Basically the wild, wild west. Party lines listened in on other’s conversations, as did phone operators. Eventually monopolies formed, concluding with the breakup of Ma Bell in the 60s, which was a good thing imo.

    The Ma Bell breakup unleashed American innovation and entrepeneurs, resulting in cell phones, etc. Fiber optic cable (fiber), originally intended for cable TV and computers, was innovated to include Voice Over IP (VoIP). And monopolies are once again forming, which will necessitate another “Ma Bell” breakup.

    Add in the further complication that millenials view fiber as a public utility, and thus fiber should be maintained by The Government, like highways. And all-of-the-above is easily hackable (including VoIP).

    Who regulates this mess? Who is allowed to snoop on you, listen to and log your phone calls and inet usage data? Who is allowed to use that info for advertising purposes? We already have so many unelected regulators we cannot keep track of them all. And currently sites like FakeBook are monopolies; IP providers are rapidly becoming so.

    The current FTC regs allow for opting-in and opting-out of privacy regs. People should know by now about/how to do opt-in/opt-out; pick one and stay consistent. The FCC has done enough meddling with phone regs. Being a proponent of small gov, treat this as the phone companies currently are being treated, keep laws and regs to a minimum and as local as possible, knowing that The Government ultimately owns all of the above.

    And that is imo, based on a bazillion years of living this 24/7, including being on-site when LineRunner – the precursor to Time Warner’s Road Runner – was being installed, on an HP miniframe running Unix 13. And there is your trivia and worthless opinion for today.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. czarowniczy says:

    I’ll break into the Cetera/Stella show for one sec, hey! They gots lordievknows how many people skimming your info and habits from on-line to in-store and using it for their own purposes. Gotta bit’o’paranoia on-line? Subscribe to a Virtual Private Network, it’ll help; however, you can still bet that your info’s gettin’ vacuumed up and plopped into the Utah Center where VPN users will, I betcha, get special attentions. Oh yeah, can’t be sure the VPN won’t put you info in the wind either.

    Liked by 3 people

    • nyetneetot says:

      The only time electronic data was secure, was when nobody knew what electronic data was.

      Liked by 3 people

      • czarowniczy says:

        Yeah, I like more archaic methods for trackless trekking. From my now outdated peripheral knowledge of how thoroughly governments and many budinesses intercept everything you do or say you never can be sure who’s in your stuff at any given time.
        Feds have Sequois and Titans poised to trawl and unravel and malware they can pop in yo system at da drop uv da hat.
        I still remember going into the coffee dhop of one government facility some years ago and seeing the tabletops were placed on big chunks of ‘obsolete’ Cray processors. My Fed agency was using systems that far predated my ‘coffee table’ – my admiration for the spooks’ abilities to spare no expense at peeking up skirts peaked.

        Liked by 3 people

  5. jeans2nd says:

    Perhaps some hope for the future of privacy. This new technology looks promising, and doable. Data stays encrypted, no matter how it is manipulated. Is not hard to understand; even The Government might understand. (ok, went too far with that last statement. retracted.)

    IARPA director: New homomorphic crypto is ‘math magic’
    “With homomorphic encryption, both sides can get what they want. The query is encrypted so TSA can’t read it, and the CIA only gets a matching record, if there is one.”
    https://www.cyberscoop.com/iarpa-homomorphic-crypto-unclassified-it-secret-computing/

    Liked by 1 person

  6. jeans2nd says:

    A article to prod one’s thinking on FCC/privacy/etc.
    What this article tells me is that fiber (fiber optic cable) will, indeed, become regarded in the U.S. to be infrastructure. The information highway will become part of the U.S. interstate highway system.

    Good or bad? Dunno. Is what the millenials want.
    Will be working from the Infinity Superhighway to make certain all is well. ~~~ _._
    https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/04/ajit-pai-says-broadband-market-too-competitive-for-strict-privacy-rules/

    Liked by 1 person

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