OTI Commends FCC Approval of Strong Broadband Privacy Rules

Press Release
Oct. 27, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved strong rules that protect the privacy of broadband customers. The Order—which was approved in a 3-2 vote—will require ISPs to get their customers’ permission before using information like browsing habits and app usage for non-service-related purposes, such as advertising.

Today’s vote is the culmination of many years of advocacy for privacy reforms at the FCC, and a year-long proceeding to apply that regulatory framework to broadband service. The Order adopted by the FCC today implements strong rules to protect the private information that broadband consumers have no choice but to share with their broadband providers. Specifically, the Order incorporates recommendations made by OTI and a large coalition of consumer and privacy organizations that the Commission adopt a broad definition of “sensitive” information that includes web browsing and app usage histories and their functional equivalents, which, as OTI has explained, can be mined to reveal details about consumers’ private lives including demographic data, financial status, political viewpoints, and more. The Order also imposes heightened protections against harmful “pay-for-privacy” arrangements that could effectively condition broadband service on consumers either forfeiting privacy protections, or agreeing to pay price premiums that many can scarcely afford.

The following can be attributed to Laura Moy, Acting Director of Georgetown Law’s Institute for Public Representation, which represents OTI on this issue:

“OTI commends the FCC for taking this important step to protect the privacy of broadband consumers. The rules approved today will finally give consumers the protection that they deserve and the Communications Act requires. We want consumers to have confidence in the internet as a safe platform for the exploration and expression of viewpoints without having to worry their ISP will be looking over their shoulder. By preventing ISPs from snooping into and monetizing private information without first getting their customers’ permission, this Order delivers that confidence.”

The following can be attributed to Sarah Morris, Director of Open Internet Policy for New America’s Open Technology Institute:

“The privacy rules adopted by the FCC today implement a thoughtful framework grounded in transparency and with an emphasis on consumer choice. Importantly, the rules afford consumers’ web browsing and app usage data—and their functional equivalents—the highest level of protection by requiring internet service providers to obtain opt-in consent before sharing that data with third parties. The rules also take a critical stance on so-called ‘pay-for-privacy’ regimes that are particularly harmfulfor low-income users. Today’s vote ensures that consumers do not have to trade basic privacy protections for broadband access.”

Related Topics
Consumer Privacy Broadband Privacy