Center for Democracy & Technology

For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Brian Wesolowski
Director of Communications
+1 (202) 407-8814

Strong FCC Broadband Privacy Rules a Win for Consumers

Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to extend crucial privacy protections to broadband users. The new rule empowers consumers to control how broadband providers use and share their information. The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) worked with the FCC, civil society, and other stakeholders throughout the process to ensure that the final rule offered meaningful privacy protections.

"This rule represents a significant step forward in protecting internet users, who have no choice but to expose massive amounts of information to broadband providers. It reflects the reality that where we go online is private and the people we pay to carry it should treat it as private," said Chris Calabrese, CDT's Vice President of Policy.

The rule requires broadband providers to get opt-in consent before using or sharing customers' "sensitive" information for purposes other than providing broadband service. This information includes the content of communications, location information, and web browsing and app usage history. In order to use "non-sensitive" information, providers must obtain opt-out consent. Although CDT does not support distinguishing between "sensitive" and "non-sensitive" information in the broadband context, we are pleased that the FCC's definition of "sensitive" information is broad.

The rule does allow broadband providers to use de-identified data without users' consent, but imposes strong de-identification requirements and standards, placing the burden on providers to ensure that information is not re-identified. "The FCC's promise to enforce strong de-identification requirements is essential to protecting customers' anonymity," Calabrese said. "Absent effective, proven de-identification methods, third parties have both the incentive and the ability to re-identify information."


Never Miss a Beat.

Get our best delivered to your inbox.

The rule does make changes that allow ISPs to use consumer information to market their own products without any avenue for opt-out for the consumer. "While we would prefer consumers be able to opt out of sharing this information, the narrow product types covered by the exception – only including offerings of cable, wireless, internet, and phone services – make the overall rule a major net gain for the privacy of broadband customers," said Calabrese.

The rule does not explicitly mention IP and MAC addresses, but CDT urges the FCC to interpret the rule going forward to include such information within the definitions of web browsing and app usage history.

The broadband privacy rule sets an important standard for protecting internet users. CDT will work to support and expand the protections in the rule, as well as baseline privacy laws that will uniformly protect consumers throughout the digital ecosystem.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

The Center for Democracy and Technology works to promote democratic values and constitutional liberties in the digital age. With expertise in law, technology, and policy, CDT seeks practical solutions to enhance free expression and privacy in global communications technologies. CDT is dedicated to building consensus among all parties interested in the future of the Internet and other new communications media.

Share This Article