CDD: FCC Must Protect Box Data, Whoever Has It

The Center for Digital Democracy says it is all for the FCC unlocking the set-top box to promote competition, but wants to make sure it protects children and their personsal information on whichever box is offered, by MVPDs or the third parties that would get access to set-top data.

In comments on the FCC set-top proposal, CDD said that navigation devices "regardless of whether they are provided by incumbents or third parties, require robust, new consumer safeguards."

For example, said the group, a leading voice for government protection of children's online data and protection from online marketing, "children require specific safeguards to ensure they do not become victims of unfair and deceptive practices, including from the delivery of data-driven advertising via navigational equipment."

CDD also said the FCC should protect the privacy of navigational information in its separate broadband CPNI rulemaking. The FCC is proposing requiring broadband subs to have to opt in to use of their information for third-party targeted marketing.

CDD said it was also concerned that "navigational device companies—from current to new entrants—will lure consumers into allowing all their data to be gathered in exchange for free or lower-cost boxes. Such a scheme—which would likely appeal to the country’s most economically vulnerable consumers—raises serious privacy and consumer concerns on its own."

Wheeler has conceded that disallowing data collection for marketing might raise the cost of service, the converse being that the service would cost less if they did share data, but said the FCC was empowering consumers to say how their information was used, then "empowering them to say 'is there some value on my information and work some kind of a deal with an Internet Service Provider to put a value on that information."

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.