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USTelecom: FCC Should Opt Out of Broad Web Info Regs

Add USTelecom to those trying to get the FCC not to apply a broad opt-in regime to the use and sharing of web browsing and app use histories by ISPs.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, in pivoting from a blanket opt-in for most third party sharing of user info to what was billed as a more Federal Trade Commission-like sensitivity approach based on the kind of info being shared and used, added web browsing and app use to the information classified as sensitive and needing opt in.

USTelecom, advertisers and others are trying to get the FCC back off that approach and instead only require opt in for web browsing and apps that include other traditional categories of sensitive information—health, finance, kids, Social Security numbers, geolocation and content of communications.

In meetings with FCC officials this week, USTelecom president Walter McCormick and other USTelecom execs said that it was "essential that government agencies speak with one voice," which means the FCC should harmonize its regs with the Federal Trade Commission and "should not expand the definition of sensitive information to include such a broad area as all web-browsing history," according to an ex parte filing with the commission.

"Any other approach contradicts the more flexible regime applicable to the rest of the digital advertising ecosystem and has not had thorough enough examination as to its broader economic impact to be mandated by rule at this time," they said.

USTelecom also says that there should not be an opt-out option for first-party marketing to subs—by ISPs themselves—saying that should be a case of implied consent when someone uses the ISP service.

The FCC is scheduled to vote on the proposal Oct. 27.