Should browser data be opt-in only?
The Federal Communications Commission last week adopted new privacy rules requiring internet service providers to get consent from consumers before sharing sensitive personal information with third parties. This includes browsing history, mobile location data and information about apps usage. Service providers must also reveal to users what data is collected and why. The rules come after the agency’s move earlier this year to construct new privacy rules for broadband customers.
In a blog post, Joan Marsh, an AT&T SVP, said the FCC’s new approach is “illogical,” and “falls short of recognizing that consumers want their information protected based on the sensitivity of the information collected, not the entity collecting it.”
Mr. Marsh, like other critics, further argued that consumers will only be confused because they’ll still see ads based on their browsing history from Google, Amazon, Facebook and other internet giants not subject to the requirements.
While some critics argued that the new FTC guidelines should apply to all internet players, Google in early October urged the FTC not to make consumer opt-in requirements too restrictive.
“The FTC’s framework recognizes that while U.S. consumers consider healthcare or financial transactions, for example, to be sensitive information that should receive special protection, they do not have the same expectations when they shop or get a weather forecast online,” Google argued in filing that came in reaction to the FCC’s earlier moves to regulate the internet’s data.
Google argued that while it takes “strong measures” to avoid using sensitive data for targeting ads and other purposes, consumers benefit from responsible online advertising, individualized content and product improvements based on browsing history.
“The FCC should not attempt to draw a categorical distinction between web browsing information and other information — particularly where such a novel and untested approach would unnecessarily increase regulatory burdens on the internet.”
Consumer advocates welcomed the new guidelines. Said Dallas Harris, a policy fellow at Public Knowledge, an advocacy group pushing for privacy regulation, in a statement, “While much remains to be done to protect consumers online writ large, the commission’s rules establish a baseline level of protection for all.”
- FCC Adopts Broadband Consumer Privacy Rules – Federal Communications Commission
- Statement Of Chairman Tom Wheeler – Federal Communications Commission
- Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services – Google/Federal Communications Commission
- FCC adopts controversial online privacy rules – CNET
- FCC Approves New Customer Privacy Rules for Broadband Providers – The Wall Street Journal (sub. required)
- Tech Industry Lambasts New FCC Privacy Rules – E-commerce Times
- Public Knowledge Applauds FCC for Protecting Consumer Privacy Online – Public Knowledge
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should browser history, mobile locations and other internet-driven data be opt-in only? Where should retailers stand on the issue?