Tag Archives: FCC

FCC Continues to Support Network Providers at the Expense of Consumers

In general, the U.S. ranks below many third world countries in the speed, quality and cost of Internet access.  If you ask your neighbors what they think about the price, speed and customer service of their internet provider , you will generally not get a positive answer.  My brother lives in Europe and his internet connection is 50 times faster than mine is here and he pays less than half of what I pay.  That is a 100 to 1 ratio.

Some cities have attempted to fill this vacuum by building their own network for Internet services.   While the number is small (about 750 cities) compared to the number of cities in the U.S., cable companies are not happy about the competition.

Therefore, it falls on the FCC to protect those cable company’s interests by saying that local community owned Internet services are a threat to free speech.  Really,  FCC commissioner Mike O’Reilly actually said that in a speech.

As is often the case with Washington, he gave zero evidence to support that claim.  That is a big surprise.  But at least a few people will believe him.

Recently the FCC reversed its own net neutrality regulation saying that it didn’t have the authority to issue the order and when 38 states started issuing similar orders, it said that the states didn’t have the authority to do that, only it had that authority.  Confused?  Me too.

So now the FCC is saying that when local cities work to solve local problems (poor or non-existent internet services, it is a threat to the First Amendment.

The only remote connection is one university paper that says the same thing, also with no evidence.  The issue at hand is the pretty universal statement in almost all ISP’s terms of service that say that they can kick you off the network if you threaten violence or spew hate speech.  The Pittsburgh synagogue shooter used an online service called Gab to promote the killing of all Jews and, not surprisingly, Gab’s ISP kicked it off when the fact became public and threatened its reputation.  Paypal refused to process its credit card transactions and its domain name provider won’t host it’s domain.  None of these are community run, but I don’t hear the FCC whining about them.  In fact, as of today, no ISP is willing to host them and they are off the air for now.  ISPs create terms of service that reflect community norms and have the ability to drop customers who violate those standards.

What is not clear is why the FCC is so anti-consumer at this point.  It kind of makes you wonder if there is money involved.  And not in a good way.  Information for this post came from Motherboard.

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Senate Reverses FCC Rule on ISP Privacy Requirements

Last year the FCC proposed a rule requiring Internet Providers to get your permission before selling your data.  The rule was set to go into effect in April.  The large ISPs – AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and others – didn’t like this rule since it affected their revenue.  They said that Facebook and Google didn’t need to get your permission, so why did they need to.

After President Trump’s inauguration, the control of the FCC changed and the new chairman, Ajit Pai, suspended the effective date of the rule and this week the Republican controlled Senate and House voted to permanently stop the FCC from implementing this rule or anything like it, now or in the future.

So what is the impact to you?

One needs to consider this.  Facebook or Google only has access to your data when you visit one of their websites or their partner websites.

On the other hand, your Internet provider has more information about you, such as:

  • Who you call, when you call, how long you talk, etc.
  • Who you text, when and potentially the content
  • For encrypted messaging like Whatsapp, who you are exchanging messages with and when
  • What web sites you visit, how often and when – even if the data itself is encrypted
  • Your location data – where you go and when and how long you stay there.
  • In fact, they can likely track anything you do online

With no rules, you cannot opt out of this data collection.

A couple of years ago Verizon and AT&T installed secret apps on your phone (Caller IQ, for example), super cookies and by inserting universal identifiers or UIDs, all to track your traffic.  They stopped some of that when it became public and the bad press outweighed the revenue.

Again, with no rules, ISPs can keep this data for as long as they want to keep it.  In addition, they can sell it to whoever they want to.  Or give it away.

Obviously, this does not overturn any other laws, but in general, there are very few rules in this arena.  This is especially true when it comes to meta data.  There is a difference between selling your emails and selling the fact that you sent an email at this time to this person.

There are also no rules regarding who they can sell (or give) this data to.  Could be your employer or your insurance company or even law enforcement.

Recently we saw that Scotland Yard hired hackers in India via the Indian police to hack journalists they were interested in eavesdropping on.

Assuming your ISP decides to collect and keep this data, there is no reason why the police couldn’t either ask them nicely for it or subpoena it.  We have already seen cases where the police want the data in your Amazon Echo and even the data in your smart water heater, so why not this data?

Could your insurance company or employer ‘acquire’ this data, directly or indirectly?  I don’t see why not.

And, you apparently have no way to opt out –  unless the ISP voluntarily decides to give you that option and I would not count on that.  I do not expect this to change during the current administration, but it could if enough people complain.

We live in an interesting world.

Information for this post came from PC Magazine.

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The Regulators Are Coming! The Regulators Are Coming!

Everyone knows that the regulators have been going after businesses that don’t protect consumer information.  Some people say they are to overreaching.  Others say that they are not doing enough.  Either way, the reality is that you have to deal with them.  So who are they and who do they go after?  Read on.

The FTC.  The FTC has gone after businesses using section 5 of the FTC act – basically saying that the actions of a business represent unfair or deceptive practices.  Recently, after the FTC went after Wyndham Hotels after a series of breaches, Wyndham went to court in an effort to get the courts to agree that the FTC had no jurisdiction over cyber security.  Unfortunately, the courts did not agree and Wyndham settled (see article).  Suffice it to say, the FTC’s jurisdiction covers anyone who is in business and they have levied multi-million dollar fines and consent decrees that allow them to watch over that business for 20 years.

The FCC. The FCC is  a new player in the privacy regulation business.  Their jurisdiction is limited to communications and broadcasters.  Recently, they have gone after a number of businesses blocking WiFi signals in an effort to force you to buy their WiFi services at a hefty price.  Marriott, Hilton, the Baltimore Convention Center and others have felt the wrath of the FCC (see article).  This is a low risk regulator to most businesses.

The CFPB.  The CFPB is a new regulator which came out of the Dodd-Frank Act and was created in 2010.  Recently, they went after a small Fin-Tech company, Dwolla (see blog post) saying that they were lying about the cyber security measures they were providing to their customers.  CFPB oversees financial institutions such as banks, insurance companies, fin-tech companies such as Dwolla, brokers, etc.  In Dwolla’s case the fine was relatively small ($100k) and the duration of the consent order was short (5 years) compared to FTC actions.  The CFPB’s reach covers anyone in the financial industry or supporting that industry and they are just beginning to figure out their role.

HHS Office Of Civil Rights (OCR).  Health and Human Services enforces HIPAA and HiTech, specifically in the area of protecting your medical information.  They have done some some enforcement actions in the past, but they have been a somewhat weak regulator in the area of privacy.  Recently, they got beat up by their Inspector General’s office saying that they were being namby-pamby (see blog post), so it appears that they are stepping up enforcement.  Their area of jurisdiction is health information, so if you are a medical or dental practice, insurance provider or a vendor to one of these businesses, you could come in their cross hairs.  Still, they seem to be behind the power curve.  Recently, they finally created a full time office to handle enforcement.

Earlier this month they fined North Memorial Health Care of Minnesota $1.55 million because they did not have policies in place to cover what their Business Associates (essentially, vendors and subcontractors) did with your data.  This stemmed from a vendor of theirs had a laptop – UNENCRYPTED – with the medical records of 10,000 patients on it, stolen out of their car.

Also this month, HHS OCR fined the Feinstein Institute $3.9 million.  This fine also was the result of an unencrypted laptop being stolen out of an employee’s car.  This time it had 13,000 patient records on it.  They were fined for not having encryption AND, not having a documented explanation why encrypting patient data wasn’t needed.  HIPAA and HiTech don’t require encryption, but they do require a documented explanation of how you manage risk if you don’t implement reasonable controls.

They two cases date back to 2012.  I assume this means that HHS OCR is still playing catch up and we don’t really know what this new office is going to do.

These are just a small sample of regulators that could come after a business that does not protect non public personal information of different varieties, depending what industry you are in.

I am sure that there are many more to consider, but suffice it to say, that almost every business could come into the cross hairs of at least one of these regulators.

Of course, this does not include state regulators, such as the New York Department of Financial Services or the California Attorney General, both of whom have been very active in the privacy arena.

So, if you collect non-public personal information, protecting that information should be a high priority for your business if you want to keep the privacy regulators at bay.

Information for this post came from Health Data Management.

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