Public Knowledge Slams FCC Over VoIP Privacy

Following a Report that a California VOiP provider kept millions of text messages and call records on unsecure database for months, Public Knowledge has called on the FCC to enforce CPNI (customer privacy network information) regs that protect the privacy of phone calls, and the Federal Trade Commission to do the same for text messages.

Harold Feld, senior VP at Public Knowledge pointed to Congress' nullification of an FCC online privacy framework (adopted under Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler) as one reason for what he said was the recklessness with which telecommunications companies treat personal data.

"By now these companies know that there are almost no consequences for bad behavior," he said.

He also said the Federal Trade Commission was AWOL on the issue of call record and text privacy, even though with the FCC's classification of texts as an information service the FTC was the only agency now with authority to investigate text messaging privacy.

Feld piggybacked on a call earlier this week by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), new chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, for more transparency about how carriers handle their users' location information. “Chairman Pai should cooperate with Congressman Pallone and explain to the new House Energy and Commerce Committee what is it that the FCC is doing to protect the privacy of phone subscribers, as required by law," he said, adding that both the FCC and FTC need to get off the privacy sidelines and into the game.

An FCC spokesperson was unable to comment, saying it was "beyond the scope of allowable activities" for the Office of Media Relations during the shutdown.

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.