Look Out, FCC Privacy Regulation is on the Way

May 1, 2015

On Tuesday, the FCC held a workshop to explore its role in protecting the privacy of consumers who use broadband internet access service. This major foray into the privacy sphere has been accelerated by the FCC’s recent net neutrality rules, which have opened up the door to broadband regulation by the Commission.

At the workshop, much of the discussion revolved around how advertising technologies impact the privacy of consumers using broadband services. Many broadband providers collect data that is used for advertising purposes but also for operational reasons. It was stressed by Robert Quinn, Senior Vice President-Federal Regulatory and Chief Privacy Officer at AT&T, that advertising allows for consumers to receive services at a much lower cost than they would if advertising were taken out of the picture. Furthermore, companies like AT&T use the data collected for network maintenance and to improve the user experience.

While it is clear that broadband providers are collecting data about consumers for many purposes, the question remains; how will the government regulate these activities? Under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Commission has authority to police unfair or deceptive acts or practices – including advertising. In recent years, this has included how a company handles and maintains the safety of consumer data.

However, with the FCC now becoming more active, we are seeing the potential for substantially greater conflict or regulatory overlap in this area. As was stated in a previous post to this blog, enhanced FCC participation may result in concurrent jurisdiction between the FCC and the FTC, or even total FCC preemption of FTC regulatory authority in some areas.

ANA will continue to actively monitor new developments at the FCC as the developing increased regulation of broadband will clearly have large implications for advertisers. As was seen at this workshop, advertising is in the line of fire when it comes to consumer privacy, and we must work to ensure that misconceptions about the industry are not allowed to adversely influence policy and regulation. While there are major legal and legislative efforts to derail or overturn the FCC’s net neutrality efforts, for the time being at least they have created a substantially altered regulatory landscape for advertisers and the internet.

comments (1)

Trent Boult

May 6, 2015 4:43pm ET

Its nice

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