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Sen. Manchin: Set-Top Proposal May Create 'Dangerous' Privacy Loophole

The FCC is getting some more concerned looks from Capitol Hill over the privacy implications of its set-top proposal.

In a letter dated June 7, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said that while he supported ensuring consumer choice in set-tops, that should not come at the expense of undermining consumer privacy protections. He is the latest in a string of Senate Democrats with various concerns about those privacy issues, including Judiciary ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

One source tracking the issue put that concerned Dems figure at double digits with the addition of Manchin.

The FCC is proposing to make MVPDs share their content and data streams with third parties, but while MVPDs are subject to FCC privacy regs, edge providers are not, or at least not in the opinion of FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. The proposal suggests the FCC lacks that authority, but will require third parties to pledge to adhere to similar privacy protections.

Manchin said it was imperative that the FCC think hard about whether that approach creates a "dangerous loophole" in consumer privacy protections.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has said that he is open to tweaking the proposal to make sure it protects privacy and MVPD set-top content, but he has also made it clear he does not think he can directly regulate edge provider data collection and sharing.

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.