FTC's Ramirez: Set-Top Plan To Include Device Privacy Pledge

Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez says she has assurances that as part of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's set-top rule plan, device makers will be held to the same privacy requirements the FCC can impose on ISPs.

That came in an FTC oversight hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) pointed out that the FCC did not have jurisdiction over device manufacturers and had said the FTC would be able to enforce device privacy on the third parties beyond the FCC's reach. The FCC does not have authority over edge providers or device makers.

Moran pointed out that Wheeler had told the committee that he had worked with the FTC in writing the set-top rules and that they would require manufacturers to comply with privacy rules that the FTC could enforce. He wanted confirmation of that.

Ramirez pointed out that in comments to the FCC on the set-top proposal, it had recommended that those third parties be required to make a "consumer-facing statement" pledge that they would comply with the same privacy rules the FCC can impose on cable companies, which would allow the FTC to take action where necessary.

That is because the FTC can go after violations of that pledge under its authority over unfair and deceptive practices.

Ramirez said Wheeler had indeed indicated his intent to make such a pledge a part of the rules.

The FCC is also proposing broadband privacy rules, necessitated by its reclassification of ISPs as common carriers.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said that given that the authority was clear, the FCC needed to move ASAP to adopt its proposed new regs.

Ramirez agreed that the FCC had primary authority, and agreed it was appropriate for them to put new rules in place.

Asked whether privacy protections should be based on who is doing the regulating or on the sensitivity of the information, Ramirez said that, in general, a harmonized approach to privacy is optimal.

But she also said that "different agencies with different authority will be examining these issues."

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.