The federal Communications Decency Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2015, requires internet providers to keep customers’ chats private, unless they’re under the express permission of the person or company in charge.
The law, however, is relatively vague about what kind of information people can keep private.
The Federal Trade Commission is currently investigating how chat apps such as Slack and WhatsApp are helping to facilitate sex between people online.
On Monday, the FTC released a new draft guidance letter that aims to clarify the law.
The letter, which is not yet public, will outline the FTC’s position on the legality of sex chat services and clarify the way chat apps are regulated under the law in some cases.
If the FTC concludes that chat apps, or the use of their software, is a form of sex abuse, it will likely have broad regulatory authority over chat apps.
The guidance letter is a response to a separate letter the FTC sent last week to Apple, which has been battling allegations of child abuse in its chat service since at least last year.
Apple said it’s considering whether to appeal the commission’s decision.
The draft letter will also provide more details on what types of information can be kept private by chat apps under the Communications Decentment Act, the agency said in a press release.
The new guidance letter will be released on March 31.
For now, you can use the guidance letter to help decide whether or not to use chat apps or apps like Slack and Whatsapp that allow you to communicate with people who have not been invited to your house.