Posted on 17/Jun/2016
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Even if the European Union recently adopted an updated and comprehensive regulation on data protection, the issue of privacy will likely continue to produce political controversies and fuel (legal) disputes in Brussels as well as in many countries of the old continent.

What’s interesting is that the customary European mess surrounding data protection rules appears to be ‘infecting’ the U.S. At least to a certain extent. By reclassifying broadband ISPs as common carriers, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has also grabbed legitimate powers to regulate how they handle privacy.

And that’s exactly what it did publishing in March a proposal which many believe to be way too prescriptive for ISPs, not least because it will place on them several obligations that other Internet companies do not have to comply with. The problem is that up to now the Federal Trade Commission was the only ‘privacy cop’ presiding over the compliance of data protection rules on the Internet. Now that the FCC have weighed in it’s less clear what will be the role of the two agencies.

On paper the FCC will start policing the ISPs under its new (and more stringent) rules, whereas the FTC will continue to enforce consumers protection rules on the commercial Internet. We will then see two different set of rules applying to ISPs on the one hand and to the rest of Internet companies on the other.

The odd thing here is that while Europe is putting much effort in placing all the players under the same regulatory umbrella (for instance with the new General Data Protection Regulation), the U.S. are seemingly walking the opposite direction. Even Giovanni Buttarelli, the European Data Protection Supervisor, wrote in a recent opinion: “we also recommend clarification of the respective roles of the FCC and the FTC over broadband internet service providers.”

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