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FCC Holds Public Workshop on Broadband Consumer Privacy

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By John Kincaide, Privacy and Security Policy Attorney at Intel

The FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) Wireline Competition and Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureaus held a public workshop to explore the FCC’s role in protecting the privacy of consumers using broadband Internet access service. The public workshop was held on April 28th at the FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C.   The FCC staff-led workshop, which included a FTC (Federal Trade Commission) staff moderator on one panel, provided an opportunity for diverse industry and academic stakeholders to discuss a wide range of issues related to the application of FCC statutory privacy protections to broadband Internet access service.

Much of the discussion focused on the potential privacy and security implications caused by the FCC’s Open Internet (net neutrality) policy which reclassifies Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as common carriers. This reclassification effectively changes the US ISP privacy and security enforcement jurisdiction from the FTC (Federal Trade Commission ActSection 5  ) to the FCC under Title II of the Federal Communications Act of 1934 (primarily Section 222, Privacy of customer information).   The workshop discussions sparked vigorous debate on several topics including whether the FCC’s telecommunications based focus on protecting consumer privacy is sufficient, should the FCC include and integrate internet protection regulatory strategies effectively used by the FTC, and if there is integration, how much is optimal and how should it be implemented.  Also discussed was the very real potential for confusion if there is one set of internet rules for ISPs (FCC) and another set of rules for the rest of the internet ecosystem (FTC).

In the closing remarks the FCC staff made it clear that: 1) the FCC and FTC are working closely together to determine the best solution; and 2) the workshop was just the beginning of the conversation on FCC privacy protection policy for ISPs.  Intel encourages the FCC and FTC collaboration to develop consistent internet privacy and security policies which continue to promote consumer trust in internet technology, enables internet technology innovation, and provides clear guidelines for privacy and security compliance.   Please let me know what you think.