Public Knowledge Defends Consumer Privacy in Set-top Box Data Complaint to FCC, FTC

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Today, Public Knowledge filed a privacy complaint regarding set-top box customer data to both the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission. The FCC complaint asserts that cable and satellite providers fail to adequately obtain customer consent to use customer data, while the FTC complaint argues that the industry’s use of customer data without appropriate disclosures and without opt-in consent amounts to an “unfair and deceptive” practice in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

The following can be attributed to Dallas Harris, Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge:

“Federal law requires cable and satellite providers to obtain permission from subscribers prior to collecting and using their information for advertising purposes. Cable operators are also required to provide subscribers with a written statement that clearly describes the nature of the use of their personally identifiable information. Despite that, cable operators obtain opt-out consent from consumers to share their information. Opt-out is insufficient to constitute prior consent under the Commission’s privacy rules. And their privacy policies often fail to adequately disclose the extent to which they are sharing and combining customer data with third parties.

“While these practices are broadly indicative of the ways many cable operators improperly use subscriber data, AT&T, Cablevision, and Comcast are among the most egregious. This is why Public Knowledge along with other groups, including Consumer Watchdog and Center for Digital Democracy, filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission asking the agency to take action against Comcast, AT&T, and Cablevision and enforce the cable privacy laws.

“The cable industry has tried to play the FTC and the FCC against one another on privacy. As this filing shows, the more privacy cops on the beat, the better protected consumers will be. The FCC should ensure that cable operators get permission from customers before using their private data, and the FTC should ensure cable operators provide their customers with accurate information about how much information cable companies collect, and how they use it.”

You may view both our FCC complaint and our FTC complaint for more information, as well as our recent blog post, "Cable Company Practices Indicate a Need for Increased Enforcement of Consumer Privacy Laws."

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