Attorneys General to FCC: Require Edge to Make Consumer Privacy Pledge

More than two dozen state attorneys general have written the FCC to make third-party, direct-to-consumer privacy pledges part of its set-top proposal.

They said that would be the best way to help states, and the Federal Trade Commission, to protect privacy by enforcing the laws against unfair or deceptive practices.

In a letter to the FCC last week, attorneys general from 15 states including from the FCC's home town (the District of Columbia) and nearby Maryland, assured the FCC that their state consumer protection laws apply to third device manufacturers.

The FCC is proposing to require MVPDs to make set-top box content and data available to those third parties so it can be wed with over-the-top offerings and as, the theory goes, better promote a market in competitive navigation devices given that 99% are still rented from the MVPD.

But the AGs said the FCC should not only require third parties to comply with MVPD privacy protections for their set-top info—like who is watching what VOD movies when—but certify that to consumers.

"[W]e urge the FCC to require manufacturers of third-party set-top boxes to publish consumer-facing statements of compliance with the privacy obligations that apply to multichannel video programming distributors," they said. The Federal Trade Commission has made the same suggestion.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has said the FCC cannot apply the MVPD regs to edge providers but can make those providers pledge to follow them as a quid pro quo to getting access to that set-top info.

The AGs want that to be a direct pledge to consumers, not just to the FCC or MVPDs, so that violating it runs afoul of unfair and deceptive prohibition practices.

They also added that the FCC should not preempt states' continued jurisdiction over state privacy laws.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.