If you're going to protect people's privacy, protect our profits, too – US broadband biz to FCC

We need ways to snoop, er, innovate


Groups representing telcos, cable operators, and wireless carriers are pressing the FCC on its plans for privacy protections in the US.

In an open letter [PDF] to the regulator's boss Tom Wheeler, the groups ask that the FCC consider "balancing" the business considerations of service providers with user privacy rights.

"If the courts determine that the FCC has authority to regulate broadband privacy, we encourage you to develop a framework that offers consumers robust privacy protection, while at the same time allowing broadband providers to continue to innovate and compete," the letter states.

Specifically, the groups want Wheeler and other FCC commissioners to develop a privacy plan that is based on the concepts the FTC uses with its own privacy framework [PDF] guidelines.

"We recommend that any FCC framework be consistent with the successful FTC approach, which is grounded on prohibiting unfairness and deception," the groups tell Wheeler.

"The FTC's time-tested framework has accomplished two important goals – it provides consumers with meaningful privacy protection and helps to enable a dynamic marketplace that supports the emergence of innovative new business models."

This as the FCC continues to mull new rules it would place on broadband carriers with the use of the new Title II classification. The rules govern the ways carriers can collect and share user information such as browsing habits or account details with third-party advertisers.

Last month, a collection of privacy and user rights groups sent Wheeler a similar letter asking that the FCC put strict protections in place to shield customer data from being sold off.

The carrier and cable groups, on the other side of the debate, want the commission to take a more hands-off approach, with the belief that ISPs will police themselves when handling customer data.

"Our member companies recognize that ensuring robust privacy protection is important and have devoted substantial capital, resources and personnel to develop, maintain, and enhance meaningful data privacy and security programs," they argue. "Indeed, our companies have strong incentives to earn and maintain their customers' loyalty by protecting their data."

The FCC has not yet said when the new broadband privacy rules would come into effect. ®

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