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Aspen Institute Communication Conference furthers the discussion on FCC and FTC privacy roles for the internet and ISPs

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By John Kincaide, Privacy and Security Policy Attorney at Intel

On August 12, 2015 the Aspen Institute held its 30th Annual Conference on Communications Policy. The topic for the conference was the Future of Broadband Competition and the discussions included representation from industry, academia and government agencies. The agenda included robust policy discussions on three broadband related topics: Equitable Access and Measures, Competitive Considerations, and Protection of Consumers/Users. One of the topics discussed in the consumer protection working group was the ongoing concern regarding the potential for confusion when multiple government agencies have separate jurisdiction for privacy and security over different parts of the internet. The most recent example of this is the potential privacy and security policy and enforcement implications caused by the FCC’s Open Internet (Federal Communications Commission, “net neutrality”) policy which reclassified Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as common carriers. This reclassification effectively changed the US ISP privacy and security enforcement jurisdiction from the FTC (Federal Trade Commission Act , Section 5 ) to the FCC under Title II of the Federal Communications Act of 1934 (primarily Section 222, Privacy of customer information).

The FCC has already acknowledged that the current telecom based privacy rules set forth in Section 222 are not well suited for ISP internet consumer privacy protection. The FCC issued a public Enforcement Advisory to provide guidance and remind broadband providers to take reasonable good faith steps to protect consumer privacy. The recent FCC Public Workshop on Broadband Consumer Privacy appeared to be a preliminary step toward potentially developing privacy rules specifically tailored for broadband providers. The FTC participated in the FCC workshop and has stated publically that it will collaborate with the FCC to work on the privacy policy framework. Intel continues to encourage the FCC and FTC collaboration to develop consistent internet privacy and security policies. Those policies should continue to promote consumer trust in internet technology, enable internet technology innovation, and provide clear guidelines for privacy and security compliance. Please let me know what you think.