FCC: ISPs need approval to collect and share user data

Tom Wheeler of FCC
America’s telecom regulator Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a proposal that bars ISPs from collecting user data without consent — to ensure privacy of broadband Internet users.

The FCC proposal clearly states that ISPs can collect and share the user data after getting required consent from the broadband user.

If the proposal becomes a regulation, it will be a big blow on telecom network operators such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, among others. However, the regulation will not impact social media companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, among others.

The proposed telecom regulation from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler won initial approval with a 3-2 vote to require broadband providers to obtain consumer consent, disclose data collection, protect personal information and report breaches — but would not bar any data collection practices, Reuters reported.

“Today’s proposal would give all consumers the tools we need to make informed decisions about how our ISPs use and share our data, and confidence that ISPs are keeping their customers’ data secure,” Wheeler said in a statement issued on Thursday.

Against the interest of several customers, broadband providers currently collect consumer data without consent and some use that data for targeted advertising.

The FCC would not extend the broadband provider privacy rules to sites such as Twitter, Google or Facebook.

Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai said there is no good reason to single out broadband providers for regulations, while not regulating websites.

The FCC has authority to set privacy rules after it reclassified broadband providers last year as part of new net neutrality regulations.

A final vote on new regulations will follow a public comment period during which the FCC is asking for possible additional or alternative paths to achieve pro-consumer, pro-privacy goals.

Under the rules providers would need to tell consumers what information is being collected, how it is being used and when it will be shared.

They would also be required protect data under a data security standard. Consumers would need to be notified of breaches of their data no later than 10 days after it was discovered.

Ratings agency Moody’s Investors Services said earlier the proposal to impose privacy restrictions on broadband providers such as Verizon Communications, AT&T, Comcast is credit negative.

Advocacy group Free Press welcomed the FCC proposal and said the commission must consider other issues in setting rules including pay-for-privacy, deep-packet inspection, upselling services, competition and data security.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association urged the FCC to adopt a technology neutral approach by treating companies with access to similar user information the same.

Consumer Watchdog praised today’s vote by FCC to start making rules that would protect the privacy of broadband customers.

The FCC voted 3-to-2 to start a rulemaking that would spell out privacy regulations for broadband Internet access providers under Section 222 of the Communications Act. When the FCC reclassified broadband providers as common carriers, like telephone companies, it got authority to set privacy rules for ISPs.

The FCC’s broadband privacy proposal is apparently consistent with the data privacy rules that apply to phone providers.

Consumer Watchdog said the rules should restrict ISPs from charging more for privacy protecting plans.