CDD Warns FCC About Broadband Data Collection

The Center for Digital Democracy said Tuesday it is presenting FCC chairman Tom Wheeler with a copy of a new report looking at data collection by ISPs and others—Google for one—to try and help guide the FCC's proposed rulemaking on a broadband privacy protection framework.

The FCC is scheduled to vote March 31 on a regulatory approach to the FCC's newly gained authority—via reclassification of ISPs under Title II—over broadband customer proprietary network information (CPNI).

Wheeler has made it clear the rules are about ISPs and the data they collect, not aimed at or applicable to data collection and use by edge providers and others, which he says is the province of the Federal Trade Commission.

But the report suggests the FCC needs to look more broadly, saying broadcasters and "marketing giants" like Google also use data practices that threaten consumer privacy.

The FCC is proposing allowing ISPs and their affiliates to use customer data to market their own services—like adding phone to a broadband/traditional video bundle—unless that customer opts out.

CDD wants the FCC to make that an opt-in regime, as the FCC is proposing for other uses of consumer data.

Among the other conclusions and recommendations in the report:

"Cable and phone broadband Internet Service Providers are building an extensive consumer data collection and targeting system...acquiring companies that allow them to gather more information on consumers and subscribers....working with leading data brokers to add even more information about their customers and consumers to target" and "using state of the art techniques to build and use data profiles, including tracking a consumer across all of their devices, mobile, PC, even TV, merging offline and online data files," said CDD executive director Jeff Chester.

Chester said ISPs are turning TV and video and set-tops into a new data-collection tool, including for programmatic advertising, that can include sensitive info like financial, health, ethnicity and geolocation.

He added that there need to be Fair Information Practices (FIPs) targeted at these data practices of ISPs. He said the FCC should also look at the relationships between ISPs and other digital data and marketing companies.

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.