If you’ve been watching TV or on social media, you’ve heard that “Republicans are going to let Internet providers sell your browser history.”
It’s not true. Not even close.
What’s really happening is that a corrupt Google power grab from the Obama administration is being overturned.
Here’s the real history.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) until 2015 was the cop on the beat for Internet privacy, data security, and consumer protection broadly. The FTC had a well-developed framework that treated all the players the same way — Internet Service Providers (ISPs), search, advertising networks, and social media companies.
That all changed when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on a 3-2 party-line vote to adopt Barack Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet like a public utility.
That vote pre-empted the FTC’s jurisdiction and stripped Internet users of consumer protections — deliberately creating a vacuum which could then be used to shift the focus of the privacy debate to ISPs, taking the heat off Google, which has vastly more access to personal data.
The FCC took this party-line action despite warnings from the FTC that it would no longer be able to protect consumers as it had in over 100 privacy and data security cases and 150 spam and spyware cases.
FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen warned that “economists (and common sense) tell us that if different sets of rules govern competitors, companies subject to the more onerous or unpredictable regime are disadvantaged compared to those outside that regime.”
That’s precisely what happened as Google — which had an astonishing 250 personnel rotate into the Obama administration — used its stroke to hobble competitors.