Today’s FCC Action Will Force Open the “Black Box” of ISP Data Gathering Practices that Threaten Consumer Privacy

Jeff Chester

Phone and cable ISPs pose a major threat to the privacy of their subscribers and consumers. They have a growing arsenal of “Big Data” capabilities that eavesdrop on their customers—including families. Internet Service Providers are gathering data on what we do and where we go, using sophisticated algorithms and predictive analytics to sell our information to marketers. As CDD documented in a report released last week, ISPs have been on a data buying and partnering shopping spree so they can build in-depth digital profiles of their customers (such as Verizon (link is external)/AOL/Millennial Media and Comcast/ (link is external)Visible World).

Consumers should have the right to make decisions on how their information can be collected, shared or sold. With a set of FCC safeguards, Americans will have some of their privacy restored. We look forward placing on the record all the ways those ISPs now—and will—threaten the privacy of Americans.

Several commissioners appear uninformed about the ability of the FTC to protect consumer privacy. The FTC does not have the regulatory authority to ensure privacy of Americans is protected (except in rare cases, such as the Children’s privacy law we helped develop). The FTC’s framework has failed to do anything to check the massive collection of our data that everyone online confronts. It’s the role of the FCC to ensure that broadband networks operate in the public interest, including protecting consumers. Today’s vote reaffirms that the FCC takes its mission to do so seriously.