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October 7, 2016

FCC to Vote on More Stringent Privacy Rules for Broadband Providers

The chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission wants to hand more control back to Internet users over how their personal data is used by broadband providers.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is proposing Internet service providers be required to notify consumers about what types of information they are collecting and how and why the data is being used and shared as well as reveal with whom the ISPs are sharing the information. The Commission will vote on the proposal at its Oct. 27 meeting.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

“I am proposing new rules to provide consumers increased choice, transparency and security online,” Wheeler said in a blog post. “The bottom line is that the information you share with your broadband provider is yours. With the FCC’s new privacy protections, you will have the right to determine how it’s used.”

Wheeler’s proposal, if approved by the FCC, would also require broadband providers to obtain “opt-in” consent before using or sharing sensitive information such as geo-location information, children’s information, health information, financial information, social security numbers, Web browsing history, app usage history or the content of texts or e-mails.

ISPs would also have to “take reasonable measures” to safeguard their customers’ data from hacks and other security breaches. If there is an attack, ISPs would have to notify consumers that their data had been compromised.

“To be clear, this proposal focuses on information collected from consumers when they use broadband services, such as residential or mobile connections,” Wheeler added. “It would not apply to the privacy practices of websites or apps, over which the Federal Trade Commission has authority. And that is true even when a website or app is owned by a broadband provider. It’s also important to note that the proposed rules would not prohibit ISPs from using or sharing their customers’ information – they would simply require ISPs to put their customers in the driver’s seat when it comes to those decisions.”

Wheeler’s proposal is being applauded by privacy advocates.

Consumer Watchdog said the rules, if approved, would give consumers significant the control they deserve to have over their own data.

“Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and Frontier Communications have a unique window into our online lives because they connect us to the Internet. ISPs must not be able to use the vast amount of information that they can get about our online lives simply because they provide the connection for any other purpose without our explicit permission,” Consumer Watchdog privacy project director John Simpson said in a press release.

“Ultimately we also need privacy regulations covering so-called ‘edge providers’ like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter. Nonetheless the FCC’s proposed broadband privacy regulations are critical step in the right direction.”


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.