FCC Leadership: Headless, Gutless, Senseless

By Stanley JungleibNo Comments

Revised: 20120602

This is too sad to belabor. But you need to know that the agency that promises to protect us from cyberwarfare by hardening the internet cannot even protect us from Google.

In obvious pre-election fear of the new web robber-barons, after a two-year effort FCC just punted and fined Google $25,000 for illegally gathering servers full of personal communications with their street snoops. Does anyone imagine Google officers chastened and dissuaded, or simply laughing their asses off as they unroll a well-planned series of strategic workarounds?

For perspective, FCC routinely levies minimum fines of $17,000 against wayward FM pirates, CBers, hams, and restaurants with cell phone quieters. FCC just fined Clear Channel $22,000 simply for vague contest terms. They got ripped off! For only $3,000 more, Clear Channel could have bought the rights to data-mine all of the country’s personal online activity.

FCC’s purported investigation was stymied simply by one engineer claiming the 5th Amendment and hence offering no information on those who green-lighted the project. Though its Chairman is an admittedly brilliant Communications jurist and former Supreme Court clerk, FCC was curiously unable to uncover essential evidence despite this stonewalling. (Notably, several European agencies are not so timid either in their fines or continuing investigations.)

Now FCC implies that Congress missed something; as if we don’t have enough laws and precedent against invasion of privacy, illegal wiretapping, to say nothing of that pesky 4th Amendment protecting personal security. In fact, Mr. Genachowski has been legally advising the FCC since the early 90s, specifically assisting two previous Chairmen by writing their telecommunications legislation; and now twenty years later finds enough loopholes surrounding encryption to obstruct his own decisiveness on behalf of the public? Ultimately, Google got off simply because you didn’t encrypt all of your love letters and other private information. Their theory is that you invited data rape. That is how your FCC is protecting you today; by deciding your digital life is all fair game for the unseen.

Effectively, Chairman Genachowski just told every internet service they could do whatever they like by simply adding $12,500 per year to their cost of doing business. What nonsense be this? Was he oblivious to privacy issues when writing the laws or only now while incapable of respecting them? You cannot call this incompetence: he is too smart. We are left only to suspect the accelerated collusion and corruption surrounding this budget-strapped and weakened FCC since Genachowski’s rise to stardom with The 1996 Telecom Act—which also dissolved your rights against cell towers in your back yard.

Julius, can we just cut through the crap? Any ambiguity here resides only in the minds of the industry that put you there and continuously pushes the limits of conspiracy to steal personal data for profit. Otherwise there would have been no basis for action at all, no need for over two years of continuing international investigation, no grounds for anyone to claim the 5th, no need for bullshit excuses about encryption, no need for House Energy & Commerce to investigate you as a paradigm study for needed reforms, and finally, no need for the U.S. public to live with Federal acquiescence in this cover-up and continued erosion of our rights to privacy.

Mr. Genachowski, again, please exit through the gift shop with your former colleagues via that golden revolving door that you have so publicly applauded. I was going to refrain from saying that you have ill-served the President, until finding that Wikipedia already predicted you to be gone in 2011: “criticisms have become numerous and increasingly vocal among consumer groups and legislative supporters about his lack of substantive accomplishments to date.”

Yes, it gets worse. This update notes a March 11 report from The Hill that oxymoronically reports the White House wants to move Genachowski out of FCC because of his inaction, to Commerce Secretary, which needs a more active leader. I can only conclude that no one can make sense of this without further information that is apparently not public.

Revised: 20130323: Mr. Genachowski has resigned.

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