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Protecting Your Internet Privacy Rights

Since the House and Senate voted to undo Obama-era regulations related to internet privacy last month under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a lot of misinformation has been floating around about your privacy online. I would like to take the opportunity to clear up some of this misinformation.

First and foremost, it is important to point out that repealing these regulations did not change your current internet privacy. The new rules had not yet gone into effect due to a judicial stay. In other words, if you did not have a problem with your internet privacy before President Trump signed the CRA into law on April 2, you can take comfort knowing that nothing about your internet privacy has changed between then and now.

Now, some background: since the invention of the World Wide Web more than 25 years ago, the internet has been a breeding ground for technological advancements, growth and innovation. This is largely due to the fact that the internet is open to everyone and has been relatively free of government regulation. As a result of these advances, today nearly 9 in 10 Americans depend on the internet to go about their daily lives.

Historically, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has regulated internet privacy-related issues with a light-handed, evidence-based approach. In 2015, the Obama administration moved the jurisdiction of internet service providers (ISP) to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and proposed new internet privacy regulations that would have gone considerably further than the FTC. In doing so, it would have also imposed new, prescriptive data restrictions on ISPs such as Midco and Verizon. It would not have affected online content companies such as Google, Bing, Amazon and Netflix.

Supporters of these new regulations claimed it would provide enhanced internet privacy protections, but in reality it would have only placed new, unfair restrictions on ISPs that could be detrimental to future internet innovation and advancements, without doing anything to enhance consumer privacy online. Our CRA repealed these new, burdensome regulations, essentially telling the FCC to go back to the drawing board when writing internet privacy regulations and urging them to model them after the FTC’s light-handed regulatory approach.

Another myth we continue to hear is that internet companies can collect consumer information without telling you and then sell it to the highest bidder. This was not true when the FTC was in control of privacy protections online. In reality, consumers control what data is collected about them and how it is used. Federal guidelines have historically required internet providers to not only disclose the kind of information provided about consumers, but also disclose how that information is used. The CRA we passed does not change that.

Repealing the misguided FCC rule is supported by groups like the South Dakota Telecommunications Association, the Rural Broadband Association and ISPs throughout the country. By passing the CRA, we have preserved online innovators' ability to invent and flourish, which will keep online competition healthy.  And we did it without lessening consumer privacy protections for Americans.