Press Release

Protecting Privacy, Promoting Competition: Public Knowledge Releases Framework for FCC Privacy Rules

February 16, 2016 , ,

Today, we’re happy to announce our newest white paper, “Protecting Privacy, Promoting Competition: A Framework For Updating The Federal Communications Commission Privacy Rules For The Digital World,” by Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge. This paper examines how the Federal Communications Commission might apply privacy rules to broadband Internet access services now that these are classified as Title II telecommunications services.

This paper provides necessary background by exploring the history and purpose of Section 222 of the Communications Act, which imposes a duty on Title II carriers to protect the “proprietary information” of their customers or interconnecting networks. The paper also reviews the FCC’s general privacy jurisdiction and its complementary relationship with the Federal Trade Commission. The paper also examines the existing and potential information collection habits of broadband providers, illustrating why the FCC must act now to protect consumer privacy and OTT competition.

Finally, the paper concludes with recommendations for the FCC’s upcoming privacy proceeding, including: (a) Prohibit carriers from blocking or otherwise interfering with the ability of consumers to protect themselves from tracking by ordinary means (such as clearing cookies) without requiring users to employ encryption; (b) Prohibit carriers from collecting information on competing services at interconnection points and other places of traffic exchange; and (c) Update the FCC’s privacy rules governing cable and wireless services to prevent carriers from exploiting potential loopholes to gain unfair advantage from the unique relationship between the carrier and the customer.

The following may be attributed to Harold Feld, co-author and Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:

“Congress created a privacy regime that puts the FTC at the center of a ‘hub-and-spoke’ design augmented by specialized federal agencies and state consumer protection. The FCC and the FTC in particular have more than 80 years experience working together on consumer protection and promoting competition.

“It is not surprising that the broadband industry is lobbying the FCC and Congress to eliminate this highly successful partnership. Now is the time to extend this partnership for essential broadband services that require full use of both agencies’ authority, and simultaneously begin working on additional privacy safeguards for the entire digital marketplace.”

You may view the executive summary or the full white paper for more information. This paper will also be discussed at a panel Wednesday, February 17 at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center at 10 a.m. ET. Please RSVP to attend.