Rep. John Katko voted to lower internet privacy bar for all

Post-Standard letter

October 11, 2018

To the Editor:

In an interview with the Post-Standard, Rep. John Katko defended the revocation by Congress last year of the FCC's privacy rules that restrict Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as Spectrum and Verizon, from collecting and selling individuals' Web browsing data ("John Katko, Dana Balter disagree over internet privacy laws," Oct. 8, 2018).

Katko argued that the FCC rules duplicated existing FTC rules, and further claimed that "the FTC has the expertise to protect consumer data." Clearly, the FTC does not know how to protect consumer data, as online content providers such as Google and Facebook engage in massive collection and selling of individuals' Web browsing data. And clearly, the FCC rules were not duplicative because ISPs are now free to collect and resell individuals' Web browsing data just like online content providers. Lowering the privacy bar was the true purpose of the legislation, which was heavily lobbied for by ISPs.

Katko stated that he supports uniform standards. Fair enough. But bear in mind that the FCC privacy rules applied only to ISPs because the FCC has authority only over ISPs but not online content providers. If Katko and colleagues had truly wanted to protect online privacy, they could have encouraged the FTC to make its privacy rules equal to the FCC rules. Or, they could have directly sponsored legislation to restrict all businesses uniformly in collecting and reselling individuals' Web browsing data. Katko could have advocated raising the online privacy bar to the FCC level for all businesses; but instead he voted to lower it for all.

Carlo Moneti