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Privacy Groups Pan Anonymized Data Carveout

A group of privacy organizations—more than 30 of them—are calling on FCC chairman Tom Wheeler not to create a carveout for anonymized data in his broadband privacy proposal.

In a letter to the chairman Wednesday, the groups said such a carveout would be anti-consumer and fail to square with statute.

The chairman's broadband proposal would require broadband subs to agree beforehand to most third-party uses of their data—like what sites they visit (an "opt-in" regime)—but ISPs, including those represented by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, have called for allowing de-identified information to be shared. However, the privacy groups, which include Public Knowledge, Free Press, and the Center for Digital Democracy, say it is too easy to reconstruct identities from the information.

Related: Public Knowledge to FCC: Anonymized Data Still Needs Regulating

They say customer info, anonymized or not, belongs to the customers, and ISPs have failed to show how those customers would benefit from the carveout. The groups say it would, instead, be an "an attractive way for [ISPs] to circumvent the vital consumer protections that will be put in place by this rule."

The FCC deeded itself broadband privacy oversight when it reclassified ISPs as Title II common carriers no longer subject to Federal Trade Commission privacy protections.

They also want the FCC to prevent arbitration clauses in privacy disputes between ISPs and customers so that they are not giving up their right to sue when they sign up and registered their concerns with pay for privacy, in which a customer would be offered a benefit, like a lower bill, for allowing third-party use.