CFC, Other Groups Urge FCC To Protect Personal Privacy From Internet, Telecom and Cable Companies

A young mixed race woman types on her laptop computer while she is being watched by a giant eye on the laptop screen.


Strong federal regulations are needed to safeguard personal privacy from the big corporations that control most Americans’ access to the Internet, a dozen consumer and privacy advocates including Consumer Federation of California (CFC) said in a joint letter issued today.

The letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler rejects the looser regulatory framework advocated by broadband Internet service providers (ISPs). The ISPs’ approach relies in large part on existing Federal Trade Commission rules that have done little to restrain ISPs’ aggressive mining of their subscribers’ data for marketing purposes, the consumer and privacy groups warn.

The FCC gained regulatory authority over ISPs last year, when it issued “net neutrality” rules requiring ISPs and government agencies to treat all Internet content the same, prohibiting artificially slower speeds, extra cost or other differentiation. The Commission is expected to open its rulemaking process to public comment soon.

ISPs such as Verizon, Comcast and Cox can exploit the personal data they amass on Web surfers, cable and streaming television viewers and smartphone users – not just marketing to their own customers but also selling the information to third parties.

“They are leveraging their position as gatekeepers to the Internet to harness this data in powerful and invasive ways,” the letter warns. “These consumer tracking and targeted advertising practices are exacerbated by the position of ISPs as gatekeepers to the Internet, which can provide them with a highly detailed and comprehensive view of their subscribers’ online communications, personal habits, and daily lives.”

Noting that “the United States currently lacks comprehensive privacy legislation or an agency dedicated to privacy protection,” the letter says “it is imperative that the FCC take this opportunity to exercise the full extent of its rulemaking authority to protect consumer privacy.”

Click here to read the letter (PDF), which is signed by:

  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Center for Digital Democracy
  • Common Sense Kids Action
  • Consumer Action
  • Consumer Federation of America
  • Consumer Federation of California
  • Consumer Watchdog
  • Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Free Press
  • New America’s Open Technology Institute
  • Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
  • Public Knowledge

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