Reaction to Congress’ vote to repeal new Internet privacy rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been passionate, powerful, and swift. It seems a war of words has followed, but I’d like to present a straightforward discussion and assessment of the facts around privacy and the internet.
Currently there are two federal regulatory agencies involved in regulating data related to the internet. The FCC regulates ISPs and how they use the data because they are defined like a utility as a service and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulate the massive data collectors and digital advertisers, like Facebook and Google, because they are defined as businesses. That fact alone is problematic because there are two different sets of rules around the same data.
CONNECT supports balanced, transparent, and navigable rules that apply to all entities in the Internet ecosystem. We need privacy laws that protect all of our data while allowing entrepreneurs to innovate. In order to do that we need a set of common sense regulations that focus on the data and not the entities who have access to it.
So, let’s look at the regulation that was repealed. While some claim that this vote puts Internet users’ privacy and personal information at risk, the reality is that internet users privacy is still protected and federal rules still exist to ensure that.
The same privacy protections that have protected users since the Internet’s inception remain. Search engines, retailers, social media sites, and a variety of other websites will continue to serve you ads, but those tailored ads are based on large pools of data that are not tied to an individual. Your most sensitive information cannot be collected without your clear, expressed consent. Health data and the data of minors are still protected under stringent federal laws like HIPAA and COPPA. This latest act of Congress does nothing to change that. Both Internet providers and websites have privacy policies in place to ensure that users get the most from their Internet experience while feeling confident that their personal information is secure.
The FCC’s proposed rules, which had yet to take effect, would have unfairly regulated Internet providers with redundant regulations at best, discriminatory rules at worst without altering rules for the rest of the Internet ecosystem like search.
Consumer privacy is important, and that responsibility rests with every member of the Internet ecosystem. To this point, many have long recognized that this issue should be addressed through nationwide rules and regulations. Both the national scope of consumer privacy and the realities of today’s Internet make a state by state patchwork an untenable solution.
The future of the internet ecosphere and innovation is a key topic for San Diego's startup and entrepreneur communities and, therefore, CONNECT. CONNECT has assisted in the development of over 3,000 companies over the course of more than 30 years by successfully linking entrepreneurs to the resources they need to commercialize their innovative products. Our efforts create more than just near-term jobs and economic opportunity for our community; it also establishes a crucial foundation for future development.
San Diego is constantly challenged to attract and retain technology-based startups that will stay in the region with conditions that nurture entrepreneurial talent. Innovative Federal policies are a crucial part of this business climate, which is why the innovation community needs a standard set smart, transparent, easy to understand rules that apply to everyone that handles your data online.