While the FTC’s charter from Congress prohibits it from regulating common carriers, the agency has previously exercised authority to regulate these companies when they offer non-common carrier services. But the recent court ruling said that AT&T is immune from FTC oversight entirely, even when it’s not acting as a common carrier.
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The “enforcement gap” could be particularly severe in data privacy and security. “The FTC is the nation’s primary protector of consumer data privacy, but under the panel’s ruling it could be powerless against any company that provides a common-carrier service,” the FTC said. “Consumers would have no protection from breach or misuse of their personal information or practices like false advertising or improper billing.”