The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday blocked some Obama administration rules approved last year that would have subjected broadband providers to stricter scrutiny than websites.
The rules, which were scheduled to take effect on Thursday, aimed to protect personal consumer data. They would subject broadband internet service providers to more stringent data security requirements than websites like Facebook, Twitter or Google.
The decision will "provide time for the FCC to work with the (Federal Trade Commission) to create a comprehensive and consistent framework for protecting Americans' online privacy," the agency said in a statement.
Under the rules, internet service providers would need to obtain consumer consent before using precise geo-location, financial information, health information, children's information and web browsing history for advertising and internal marketing. For less sensitive information such as email addresses or service tiers, consumers would be able to opt out.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen issued the following statement:
"The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission are committed to protecting the online privacy of American consumers. We believe that the best way to do that is through a comprehensive and consistent framework. After all, Americans care about the overall privacy of their information when they use the Internet, and they shouldn't have to be lawyers or engineers to figure out if their information is protected differently depending on which part of the Internet holds it.
"That's why we disagreed with the FCC's unilateral decision in 2015 to strip the FTC of its authority over broadband providers' privacy and data security practices, removing an effective cop from the beat. The FTC has a long track record of protecting consumers' privacy and security throughout the Internet ecosystem. It did not serve consumers' interests to abandon this longstanding, bipartisan, successful approach.
"We still believe that jurisdiction over broadband providers' privacy and data security practices should be returned to the FTC, the nation's expert agency with respect to these important subjects. All actors in the online space should be subject to the same rules, enforced by the same agency.
"Until that happens, however, we will work together on harmonizing the FCC's privacy rules for broadband providers with the FTC's standards for other companies in the digital economy. Accordingly, the FCC today stayed one of its rules before it could take effect on March 2. This rule is not consistent with the FTC's privacy framework. The stay will remain in place only until the FCC is able to rule on a petition for reconsideration of its privacy rules.