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CTIA: FCC Has No Roving Mandate to Protect Info Stored on Mobile Devices

The FCC may not have applied nondiscrimination rule to
wireless broadband, but carriers don't want the FCC to start using the issue of
wireless privacy to regulate the management of their networks.

In comments to the FCC Friday, CTIA: The Wireless
Association said that "the Commission lacks statutory authority to
regulate carriers' use of tools to diagnose and troubleshoot network problems
in order to improve the provision of service to subscribers."

CTIA made it clear it wanted the FCC to steer clear of that

And while the FCC does regulate the use and protection of
CPNI (customer proprietary network information) on both cable and phone
networks, which is defined as "information that relates to the quantity,
technical configuration, type, destination, location, and amount of use of a
telecommunications service," data storage on mobile devices does not fit
in that category.

"The FCC does not have a ‘roving mandate' to safeguard
the privacy of text messages, pictures or emails on wireless devices, says
CTIA. Instead, the group points to the Obama Administration's proposed
voluntary privacy Bill of Rights as a better way to address the issue through
industry action.

Last week, the Commerce Department's National
Telecommunications and Information Administration hosted its first stakeholder
meeting enforcing that bill of rights, with a representative of CTIA member
AT&T weighing in to pitch self-regulation.

"NTIA is already considering these privacy issues as
part of a broader, ongoing multi-stakeholder process that involves the wireless
industry," said CTIA in its comments, referencing that stakeholder
meeting. "The Commission should not attempt to get out ahead of this

The FCC in May sought comment on how and whether it should
protect the privacy and security of info stored on mobile devices, which, with
the addition of tablets, have morphed from cellphones into the primary vehicle
for accessing the Internet.

"The devices consumers use to access mobile wireless
networks have become more sophisticated and powerful, and their expanded
capabilities have at times been used by wireless providers to collect
information about particular customers' use of the network -- sometimes, it appears,
without informing the customer," the FCC said in seeking comment.
"Service providers' collection and use of this information may be a
legitimate and effective way to improve the quality of wireless services. At
the same time, the collection, transmission, and storage of this
customer-specific network information raise new privacy and security

That notice came after numerous stories Google and Facebook
and others collecting and/or sharing info, as well as apps that track and
collect without the users' knowledge.

But CTIA points out that the issues have been with websites
and third-party info collectors rather than carriers.

"Due to the openness of the Internet, today's privacy
risks originate from the acts and omissions of entities independent of the
carrier-customer relationship. Indeed, consumers use a variety of applications
and other third-party software to store personal data on their mobile devices,
providing many other players in the wireless ecosystem with the ability to
access this information," says CTIA. "Wireless carriers have no
control over these third parties and are unable to restrict their access to
consumer information residing on a mobile device."