Falsehoods that are being peddled as facts by the media and others on the recent repeal of online privacy regulations that hadn’t even gone into effect yet are running rampant. Sensationalized reporting is hardly a new political tactic, but the new level of low that opponents of this measure have gone to in the past few weeks to scare Americans with blatant lies, including that our own U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo voted for a measure that would allow consumers’ information to “be up for sale” is disturbing. Policymakers like them who supported the measure acted sensibly and in our best interests.
Let’s look at what’s really going on here.
Up until new Internet regulations were passed by former President Obama’s Federal Communication Commission (FCC) a few years ago, all Internet companies and Internet Service Providers were regulated equally under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In other words, consumers’ online privacy rights were protected under one roof at the expert agency, with an effective, consistent, and streamlined enforcement environment.
Fast forward to late 2016. The FCC under President Obama then approved a privacy proposal to single out Internet providers and create a one-sided privacy rule that ignores the biggest data collectors online like web giants Amazon, Google, and Facebook. It’s like taking the tires off your car when the engine is overheating —it made absolutely no sense and caused a lot of lawmakers and regulators on both sides of the aisle to scratch their heads.
Even the FTC under Obama was against this proposed school of thought. It noted in a review: “Any privacy framework should be technology neutral,” meaning there should be equal privacy rules over both internet providers and internet companies, directly contradicting the FCC’s idea to split them up. The current heads of the FCC and FTC as well as Congress and President Trump agree.
Equally of note is the perplexing idea by the FCC to forcibly remove ISP privacy oversight from the FTC. Thankfully, it was just that—an idea. It didn’t carry out the action; that was scheduled to take place this December—eight months from now. So, when Congress and President Trump approved the repeal, they did exactly that—repealed the idea, meaning that absolutely no changes took place regarding online privacy for consumers. Our privacy protections right here, right now are the same as they were in the seconds before the Congress voted on the resolution and President Trump signed it.
To sum it up bluntly: The sky hasn’t fallen. It’s still safe to search the web. Your online information, including financial and personal information, and information of your children—it’s all still protected and will not suddenly be up for public auction or exposed. That is just what political opportunist campaign committees want you to believe.
The next time you see an article or email saying your online privacy is now “comprised” or “being sold,” or maybe you’re walking around Brickell Key and hear someone saying they’re fearful about what privacy protections they now have, just remember this: Your online privacy is still protected. Representatives Curbelo and Diaz-Balart did not sell us out. They voted to ensure a streamlined and practical policy framework.
It’s indeed a valuable lesson learned: Don’t always believe what you read or are told, because there’s always two sides to a story.
Julio Fuentes is President of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce