Consumer Watchdog Joins Call For FCC To Enact Strong Broadband Privacy Rules

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SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog joined a coalition of 59 groups calling on the Federal Communications Commission today to begin a rulemaking to protect consumers’ privacy and become a “brawnier cop on the beat focusing on broadband providers.”

“The FCC’s reclassification of broadband providers as common carriers means the agency can enact strong privacy-protecting regulations,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “It’s imperative the commission act as soon as possible.”

In a letter addressed to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the groups wrote:

“Providers of broadband Internet access service, including fixed and mobile telephone, cable, and satellite television providers, have a unique role in the online ecosystem. Their position as Internet gatekeepers gives them a comprehensive view of consumer behavior and until now privacy protections for consumers using those services have been unclear. Nor is there any way for consumers to avoid data collection by the entities that provide Internet access service.”

The letter warned that as use of the Internet increases, so does the potential for surveillance, which can create a chilling effect on speech and increase the potential for discriminatory practices derived from data use.

“By contrast, commonsense protections may lead to a broader adoption and use of the Internet, as individuals gain confidence in conducting everyday business and exploring new services online,” the letter said

The 59 groups said new privacy rules should:

— Protect consumers from having their personal data collected and shared by their broadband provider without affirmative consent, or for purposes other than providing broadband Internet access service.

— Provide for notice of data breaches, and hold broadband providers accountable for any failure to take suitable precautions to protect personal data collected from users.

— Require broadband providers to clearly disclose their data collection practices to subscribers, and allow subscribers to ascertain to whom their data is disclosed.

Read the 59 groups’ letter here:

The letter to the FCC chairman cited a recent speech by Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill saying that broadband reclassification added “a brawnier cop on the beat” on privacy issues. “She welcomed the opportunity for the two agencies to work in cooperation to create ‘strong consumer privacy and data security [that] are key ingredients of our data-intensive economy, including the practices of broadband providers,’” the letter said.

“We thank you for your continuing commitment to consumer privacy protection. In addition to the Commission’s important decision last year to retain authority to protect consumer privacy on broadband telecommunications services, the FCC has worked diligently under your administration to enforce existing privacy protections for voice communication, and to require greater transparency for broadband provider service practices,” the letter said.

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John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson is an American consumer rights advocate and former journalist. Since 2005, he has worked for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group, as the lead researcher on Inside Google, the group's effort to educate the public about Google's dominance over the internet and the need for greater online privacy.

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