Consumer Watchdog Welcomes FCC’s New Broadband Privacy Rules Passed On 3-to-2 Vote

Calls For Consumer Privacy Protections To Be Extended To Cover All Internet Companies

SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today welcomed the Federal Communications Commission’s new broadband privacy rules enacted on a 3-to-2 vote as a major step toward protecting consumers’ online privacy, but added it is now necessary to extend protections to cover the rest of the Internet.

“Today’s FCC action gives broadband users significant control over their information. It’s a major step forward in protecting consumers’ privacy,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project Director. “But the FCC action only covers ISPs. We now need privacy rules – possibly enacted through legislation – that cover the rest of the web, the so-called Internet edge providers like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.”

The FCC gained authority over Internet Service Providers when it acted to ensure “Net Neutrality” by reclassifying ISPs as common carriers and regulating them like utilities.

Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group, praised Chairman Tom Wheeler’s statement that information about consumers gathered by ISPs belongs to the consumer and not the company. The FCC Factsheet said:

“Providers have the ability to see a tremendous amount of their customers’ personal information that passes over that Internet connection, including their browsing habits. Consumers deserve the right to decide how that information is used and shared — and to protect their privacy and their children’s privacy online.”

Read the FCC Factsheet here:

The new FCC rules require that ISPs obtain affirmative “opt-in” consent from consumers to use and share sensitive information. The rules specify categories of information that are considered sensitive, which include precise geo-location, financial information, health information, children’s information, social security numbers, web browsing history, app usage history and the content of communications.

“Including web browsing history, app usage history and communications content in the sensitive category is why this regulation is so important,” said Simpson. “Now we must extend this fundamental principle to cover the rest of the Internet to give us control over how data hungry corporate giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter use our personal information.”

While the regulations passed today did not address concerns about mandatory arbitration requirements in communication services contracts, Wheeler said the Commission will proceed with a rulemaking in February 2017 to address the issue.

“Consumer Watchdog looks forward to working with the Commission as they enact a rule that would preserve consumers’ access to legal redress, including class action suits,” said Simpson.

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Published by John M. Simpson

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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