Charter Promotes Opt-In Regime

WASHINGTON — With Capitol Hill focused on protection of online data and consumer privacy last week — in hearings with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge said it was time for uniform privacy protection legislation, including opt-in sharing of all information beyond use for its initial purpose.

But that’s only the case if that law is applied to edge providers such as Facebook as well as internet service providers, Rutledge said. That means companies must get users’ informed consent before sharing their personal information with third parties.

In a blog post last week, Rutledge urged Congress to pass strong standards that apply to everyone, presaging the introduction a day later of an opt-in privacy bill by a pair of powerful senators.

That follows revelations that the information from millions of Facebook users — at least 50 million and perhaps more than 87 million — was shared with Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that built profiles and sold them to political campaigns, including President Donald Trump’s.

Citing the Zuckerberg hearings, Rutledge said it was important to examine “how data is shared and sold, and how best to protect and secure personal data when much of our lives are increasingly taking place online,” he wrote.

Rutledge continued: “Internet users should have ‘opt-in’ protections, meaning all entities must receive opt-in consent to collect and share their data for purposes other than the actual service they engaged in. Additionally, all online entities must be transparent about their information collection and sharing practices by providing concise, easy-to-find, understandable privacy notices to consumers. Again, these consumer protections only work if all members of the ecosystem — like social media apps, web browsers, broadband providers, online advertisers and data brokers — participate.”

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.