Blackburn: Privacy Self-Regs a Must

Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee
told a Telecommunications Industry Association convention crowd in Dallas
Thursday that they were going to have to come up with an online privacy
self-regulatory regime or government was going to do it for them.

Hers was not a threat but a warning. She does not favor
regulation, and in fact said that self regulation offers "the only path to
a palatable solution."

She also said she wanted the FCC out of the privacy area,
and would introduce a bill to repeal some of its authority.

"[T]hough you dazzle consumers with your ends you also
frighten us with your means," she said. "The lifecycle of recent data
breaches and the lag time in appropriate consumer notification is a trend that
I fear perpetuates industry's "culture of damage control."

Those breaches include Sony's revelation that some 100
million online gamers may have been affected by hacking of two of its sites.

She warned that government was even now laying out plans to
Rush in" with all its "corrosive potential."

Her warning came the same day that Senators Jay Rockefeller
(D-W. Va.) and John Kerry
(D-Mass.) warned representatives of Google and Facebook and Apple at a
mobile privacy hearing that they had better come up with some basic
self-regulatory rules of the road. Both have already introduced online privacy
bills that essentially mandate voluntary regs, as oxymoronic as that might
sound, with the Federal Trade Commission enforcing those regimes.

While Blackburn isn't looking for an
active FTC, she does say that it, not the FCC, should be wielding the authority
in that space. She says she is even planning to introduce legislation to repeal
section 222 Communications Act, which empowers the FCC to oversee the
confidentiality of telecommunications subscribers' proprietary info, and
section 631, which is a prohibition on a cable system's disclosure of
personally identifiable info without prior consent.

The FTC has the experience and expertise in this area
and, therefore, should have full jurisdiction," she said. "The FCC's
claim that it knows best how to identify "potential harm" to our
competitive market is fatally misguided."

She used the net neutrality rules as an example. "Net
Neutrality orders expressly prohibit the marketplace's most important tool for
facilitating consumer choice," she said: "discrimination." She
said the rules limit ISP's ability to go
after bad actors.

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.