One significant threat to the public interest under the new administration that is receiving increased attention is broadband privacy for consumers. Last week, Senator Jeff Flake and 21 cosponsors introduced a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules. In late October, after over six months of deliberation, the FCC passed rules governing how Internet Service Providers use the personal information that they collect on their customers. Put simply, ISPs would be required to obtain opt-in consent before using anything sensitive like web browsing history, your location, financial information, and information relating to children.
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission released a fact sheet summarizing proposed final rules that would significantly upgrade consumer broadband privacy protections. The final proposal varies from the framework set forth in the original proposal in one important respect. The FCC initially proposed requiring Internet Service Providers to obtain opt-out consent for first party use of customer information and opt-in consent for third party use of customer information. Instead, responding to industry lobbying, the FCC will adopt the framework originally developed by the Federal Trade Commission that requires opt-in consent for “sensitive” information, but requires subscribers to affirmatively opt out from the ISP using information designated “non-sensitive.”
The Ninth Circuit issued a fairly important decision limiting the authority of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Unfortunately, articles such as this from CNET, combined with some overwrought commentary, have generated a lot of confusion.
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.
In March of this year, the Center for Digital Democracy released a comprehensive report outlining the increasing use of subscriber data by Internet Service Providers and video providers. The report details the common practices of cable operators gathering their customers’ personal information, sharing and combining that information with third parties, and using it to target customers for advertising on an individual level.