Public Knowledge to FCC: Anonymized Data Still Needs Regulating

Public Knowledge says that just because a broadband customer's information is anonymized does not mean those customers should not have to give permission for it to be shared with third parties.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, joined by the other Democrats, has proposed requiring customers to opt in to share their information with third parties,

ISPs, who don't like the FCC proposal in general, have said that in any event the FCC need not apply its new framework to information that cannot be traced to an individual user.

Public Knowledge strongly begs to differ and last week was trying to convince the FCC of its point of view.

In meetings with FCC staffers, according to an ex parte filing, Public Knowledge representatives said that Congress intended that customers should have control of how their information is used, period.

Public Knowledge argued that it is clear that Congress's goal was not "merely to avert a negative harm of embarrassment or exposure of information to third parties, but a general desire to ensure that when a subscriber sends a communications transmission, that the transmission is in any way utilized by the carrier for its own gain."

If that is the case, the group told the FCC, "then anonymization is no help," and would still "convey a windfall to the carrier at the expense of consumer control of the information in a way that Congress did not intend."

ISPs argue that consumers also gain through third-party use of anonymized data since that supports the model of free online content that users have come to expect.

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.