Twelve groups — including the ACLU, the Center for Digital Democracy and Public Knowledge — sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler yesterday asking the Commission to limit ISPs’ utilization of users’ browsing data.
Their letter comes in response to another one sent to Wheeler earlier in the month by four trade associations — American Cable Association, Competitive Carriers Association, CTIA and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. In their March 1 statement, the trade groups proposed a framework on the FCC’s upcoming rulemaking on broadband privacy and suggested the FCC not go too far from other agencies’ privacy frameworks.
“While it is encouraging that ISPs now appear willing to engage on this issue and to recognize the importance of FCC data security and data breach regulations, the proposed framework fails to provide consumers with the robust protections needed in light of ongoing ISP information collection practices,” the ACLU-led letter reads. “We therefore submit this letter reviewing the collection practices of ISPs across multiple platforms (including their video offerings), and urging the FCC to adopt rules that will provide meaningful protections for broadband consumers.”
The privacy groups charge that ISPs are “showing an increased interest in monetizing the data they collect about their customers, and they are leveraging their position as gatekeepers to the Internet to harness this data in powerful and invasive ways.”
Companies specifically called out in the letter include Verizon, Comcast and Cox.
“Verizon, for example, has in place powerful data-driven tracking and targeting infrastructure for multiple platforms and devices, including mobile phones,” the letter states. “Verizon’s acquisition of both AOL and Millennial Media in 2015, as well as its advertising partnership with Microsoft, provide the company with extraordinary capabilities for data gathering, analysis, and monetization of subscriber information.”
Comcast’s announcement last year that it would share viewer data collected by its set-tops with its NBCUniversal media division was also listed as a concern, as was the operator’s “ability to harvest terabytes of unstructured data from the set-top boxes it controls, which it then enriches with demographic information to provide data more meaningful to advertisers, including those targeted via Comcast’s IP-based systems.”
Additionally, the letter took issue with Cox, saying its targeting capabilities leverage household demographics like income, ethnicity and home ownership, and through data partnerships and related online targeting techniques, it gathers additional information about consumers.
“The invasive and ubiquitous tracking practices of ISPs underscore the imperative for the FCC to exercise the full extent of its rulemaking authority to protect consumer privacy,” the letter states. “As it stands, the Federal Trade Commission is simply not equipped to provide meaningful protections for consumer privacy for numerous reasons.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations