The FCC recently finalized a set of rules to protect the privacy of subscribers to various broadband ISPs such as Comcast and Time Warner, and even mobile ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. The concern here is that ISPs collect data on their customers’ browsing habits and because all customer traffic goes through their servers, they have even more access to user data than than almost any other internet company. Beyond web history, which can be used to ascertain things like medical conditions or financial situations, ISPs can also figure out a subscriber’s geolocation. The FCC wants subscribers consent by opting in before ISPs can access, use, and sell that data.
This is very interesting and I think it sets a precedent for our privacy laws to reach a point similar to the EU’s opt-in internet privacy laws. The FCC can only create rules for these ISPs. Companies like Google and Facebook can only be regulated by the FTC, not the FCC. Before these rules were finalized, T-Mobile complained about a “level playing field” because these rules put ISPs at a greater disadvantage than other internet companies. This situation might motivate the major ISPs to put pressure on the FTC to pass a similar opt-in rule for other internet companies.