Groups urge civil rights focus for FCC privacy rules

Groups urge civil rights focus for FCC privacy rules

Several major civil rights groups signed on to a letter Wednesday asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider the way privacy issues affect traditionally marginalized communities while crafting privacy rules for Internet providers.

“The Commission should carefully examine the privacy interests of historically disadvantaged communities,” the groups said. “Use of consumers’ online information can have disproportionate negative effects on the communities that our organizations represent.”

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The letter was signed by 24 tech and civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza. They urged the FCC to consider a set of principles they released in 2014 on how to maintain protect civil rights in the use of big data.

The groups also said that privacy protections implemented by the FCC should apply equally to wired and wireless broadband, since black and Hispanic Americans more heavily use mobile connections.

The letter comes shortly after FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced some details of his proposed privacy rules for broadband providers. In a major shift, brought about by the net neutrality order the commission controversially approved last year, the agency will now regulator privacy at the providers, rather than the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Under the proposed rules, consumers would have to actively give providers permission before their data could be used for many purposes or shared with others. The proposal also includes data security rules and new disclosure obligations should companies be hacked.

Industry groups say that the FTC’s standards — which prohibit unfair and deceptive practices — are sufficient and have urged the FCC to align its rules with them.

The commission is expected to vote on the proposed rules later this month. If the item is approved, the public and other interested parties would have an opportunity to comment on the draft before a final version is brought up for a vote.