Chester Asks That Consumer Privacy Be Addressed in Any Comcast/NBCU Review

While a combined NBCU and Comcast are expected to offer up some conditions to regulators to make the deal more palatable, Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center For Digital Democracy, isn't waiting around to see what they will be.

Chester wants to make sure consumer privacy issues are addressed in any regulatory review of a deal.

"As the nation's biggest 'video provider' and 'largest residential Internet service provider,' Comcast has access to detailed financial information on its TV and broadband subscribers. It also has a treasure trove of consumer data on viewing behaviors online and with TV," says Chester. "Comcast can also use its dominate position as the leading high-speed ISP and cable TV provider to extract additional consumer information from its programming partners. Regulators will need to ensure effective safeguards on network neutrality, programming access and competition, and consumer privacy-especially for "advanced advertising."

Chester has been arguing for several years now that the online space is the next big media consolidation battleground, urging the Federal Trade Commission and FCC to safeguard consumer privacy and pay close attention to how people, particularly young people, are being marketed online.

He is concerned with cable set-top box info that could be combined with outside data bases to target market.

Chester says he has sent letters to House and Senate lawmakers, the FTC, FCC and Department of Justice asking them to include consumer privacy online in their reviews, adding: "we will follow up with meetings and documents."

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.