FCC to tackle broadband privacy in 'next several months'

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will take on the issue of online privacy in the “next several months,” Chairman Tom Wheeler said during an interview with Charlie Rose this week. 

He said the agency’s action would address the privacy practices of Internet service providers and how they are protecting the information of their customers.  

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“In other words, do I know what information is being collected?” he said. “Do I have a voice in whether or not that is going to be used one way or another? And those are two very important baseline rights that individuals ought to have.”

At another point he said, “I’ve told the Congress and others you will see us in the next several months addressing the question of privacy.”

Wheeler has previously said a notice of proposed rulemaking on the issue would come this fall. The FCC did not respond to a question about a more specific timeline.  

The FCC’s role in protecting broadband customers’ privacy remains one unsettled issue under the net neutrality order approved earlier this year. The commission’s previous mandate applied only to telephone companies, and the rules are tailored specifically for them. 

For example, the commission fined two telecom companies last year for storing the Social Security numbers of customers on an unencrypted server.

In May, the FCC released an advisory that said it would initially judge providers — like AT&T or Comcast — on whether they are "taking reasonable, good-faith steps" to comply with the privacy provision of communications law, until tailored rules for the Internet can be developed.

Internet service providers have complained that the interim advisory is too vague.