FCC To Vote On New Broadband Privacy Rules

There may be good news coming this month for privacy conscious broadband internet customers. Actually, it’s not as good as a previously proposed version of the proposal, but it’s still good news that the Federal Communications Commission is getting more serious about privacy. And it’s about time.

computer privacyCurrently, broadband companies can use your personal information without getting your permission ahead of time. There’s probably something that you signed when you originally chose your provider that states what they might do with your data, but customers largely ignore that type of thing until something bad happens. The FCC wants to change that.

The version of the plan penned in March would have require broadband companies like Verizon and Comcast to get customer consent before sharing any information about users with their advertising partners. That seems like a good idea to us but would have put cable and phone companies at a disadvantage versus internet companies like Google, who are governed by the Federal trade Commission.

The updated version, which will be voted on by the FCC on October 27, allows broadband providers to share some of your personal information with advertisers, such as your name and address, which the FCC now deems to be “non-sensitive”. What has changed is that if the measure passes, broadband companies will have to get approval to use more sensitive information such as your phone’s physical location, websites browsed and apps used, and what’s in your emails.

Also, since advertisers aren’t the only problem, the FCC also wants to require the companies to inform you within 30 days if your data has been hacked.

That last thing seems pretty obvious, and the 30-day window should be shorter.

This whole thing is a move in the right direction, but stops short of being a “good” rule. I don’t think that my name and home address are “non sensitive” information, and neither should you. It’s an outrage that until now, your internet provider could scan and use the contents of your emails.

On the bright side, if this measure does create more protections for consumers, and perhaps shines a bright light on privacy issues that exist in the current internet landscape, it feels like progress. We need to keep working on it.


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