Leahy Calls On FCC To Strengthen Privacy Protections For Consumers

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, July 7, 2016) – Americans’ personal information is increasingly shared online, but the necessary protections against invasions of privacy are not in place.  Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who has long worked to protect consumer privacy, joined Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and others this week to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to address an essential element of online privacy by adopting strong rules to regulate how broadband providers can use personal information.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Thursday, the senators wrote:  “Like the phone companies of the Twentieth Century, internet service providers (ISPs) are gatekeepers that control the infrastructure that Americans depend on to access vital applications and services.  They provide a critical service that allows consumers to access information and communicate across town and around the globe.  An ISP has a duty to protect the privacy of consumers who use the company’s wired and wireless infrastructure to connect to the world.”

Currently, broadband services are not required to provide consumers with the same privacy protections that they receive from other telecommunications services.  Earlier this year, the FCC released a proposal that, if adopted, will help to close a portion of this privacy gap that consumers face on the Internet.  Notably, it will require ISPs to have the expressed consent of their customers in order to share or use personal information.  Leahy, Markey, and other Democratic senators encouraged the FCC last year to adopt these kinds of strong privacy protections.

Thursday’s letter continues Leahy’s efforts to strengthen privacy protections for consumers who are sharing more information online.  Last year he introduced the Consumer Privacy Protection Act to protect consumers and require companies to take preventative steps to defend against cyber attacks and prevent data breaches.  Leahy previously authored legislation to establish federal data breach notification law and require businesses to safeguard consumers’ information from cyber threats. 

Leahy said:  “Vermonters and consumers across the country should not have to worry that their personal information will be used or shared by their Internet Service Providers without their express consent.  While the FCC’s proposed rules will help to better protect consumers, I believe that there should be a higher standard for privacy protections across the Internet and will continue to work toward that goal.  Congress can immediately improve consumer privacy by taking up and passing my bill, the Consumer Privacy Protection Act, which would require companies to utilize strong data security measures that help protect consumers’ personal information across the board.” 

A copy of the letter to the FCC is available online.

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