Mobile Future Pushes FTC Model of Broadband Regulation

Mobile Future—whose members include AT&T, Verizon and tech companies—says the record is clear that stakeholders are committed to protecting consumer privacy but just as clear that the FCC's proposed "overly prescriptive" rules are not the way to achieve that.

That came in reply comments on the proposal by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to require ISPs to get their customers' permission before sharing their information with most third parties.

The FCC assumed broadband privacy oversight from the Federal Trade Commission when it reclassified internet access as a Title II common carrier service.

While the FTC, which has limited rulemaking authority, regulated broadband privacy using its power to sue for violations of voluntary privacy policies, the FCC wants to use its more muscular rulemaking authority to establish new rules.

Mobile Future pointed out the divergent approaches, as well as the White House's multistakeholder approach to voluntary guidelines on various privacy fronts, including drones, facial recognition technology and apps.

One key to the FTC's approach is applying data protections based on the type of data, which Mobile Future says would be preferable to the FCC approach of "applying differing privacy protections for consumer information depending on the entity using the data, rather than the sensitivity of the data itself."

Wheeler has said that the FCC can't regulate what edge providers like search engines and sites do with surfer data. "Arbitrarily applying rules to just one segment of the Internet ecosystem is not supported by the record and would result in unnecessary consumer confusion," Mobile Future said in reply comments that were due Wednesday.

"The Commission should abandon its flawed 'go-it-alone' privacy proposals and instead move toward harmonizing its privacy regulations with the FTC’s existing regime, as set forth in the Consensus Privacy Framework," Mobile Future said.

That is the proposal by cable and telco ISPs that the FCC adopt the FTC framework of enforcing privacy policies and using the sensitivity of information as the gauge for the level of protection.

If the FCC does decide to "go it alone," it said, it should follow the lead of the White House multistakeholder model for putting teeth into the Administration's privacy bill of rights and "engage the FCC, FTC, NTIA, and all stakeholders to ensure that consistent, flexible rules apply across the Internet ecosystem."

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.