What the new FCC Internet Privacy rules mean for you

On March 10th, 2016, the FCC proposed a set of broadband rules for consumer privacy across the United States. What we're looking at here is what might be – not what is just yet. What you'll find is that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is proposing is that "when consumers sign up for internet service, they shouldn't have to sign away their right to privacy." Novel concept, yes?

Wheeler is suggesting that consumers "have the tools they need to make informed choices about how and whether their data is used and shared by their broadband providers." It's that simple, really.

Privacy for the data you pay for.

What we're not so sure we agree with is the assertion that broadband Internet access service is "the most significant communications technology of today." If Wheeler just means the entire internet and all access points therein (including so-called "mobile broadband"), then yes, he is correct. Focusing on desktop and laptop-connected internet can't be the entire scope of this proposal.

This proposal would "apply the privacy requirements of the Communications Act" to broadband internet.

One of the most interesting bits of this proposal given recent events with Apple and the FBI is the segment entitled "Your ISP's Duty to Keep Your Data Secure" in which the following is included:

• The proposal would require broadband providers to take reasonable steps to safeguard customer information from unauthorized use or disclosure.

That means all unauthorized use or disclosure. That means protecting you from any force that'd attempt to take hold of your information via your web connection – that wouldn't just be your responsibility anymore.

This proposal is for the permission and protection of data. It is not about prohibiting data providers from accessing your data.

Of utmost importance is this fact: your data providers would still NOT be prohibited from using or sharing your data. That's not a law. This proposal would, on the other hand, require that data providers allow you to have an "opt out" or an "opt in" for providing your data to your carrier for any purpose.

The FCC will soon vote on these rules – that'll take place at the March 31st, 2016 Open Meeting. If this proposal is adopted, a period of public comment will commence forthwith.

You can read the entirety of the proposal at the FCC right this minute.