Warren pushes for strong internet provider privacy rules

Warren pushes for strong internet provider privacy rules
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Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSinema's office outlines opposition to tax rate hikes The CFPB's data overreach hurts the businesses it claims to help Runaway higher ed spending gains little except endless student debt MORE (D-Mass.) threw her support this week behind strong Federal Communications Commission privacy rules for internet service providers.

“I ask that the Commission move quickly to finalize its rules for this sector,” she said in a Tuesday letter.


“The absence of clear and strong rules for BIAS providers has resulted in a host of dubious practices that endanger consumers' privacy, and I am particularly concerned about new business models that single out low-income consumers for differential treatment with regard to their privacy and the use of their financial and other personal data.”

The commission is currently considering new rules for internet providers.

The proposal put forth by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would put restrictions on how broadband providers — like Comcast and Verizon — could use their customers’ data. They would need to get their customer’s consent before using it in almost all cases, including most instances where they are using it for marketing purposes.

Warren honed in on what she said was a potential disparate impact of the erosion of privacy for broadband customers on low-income people. She noted an AT&T offering that gives customers a discount to let AT&T use some of their data for targetted advertising. Effectively, the program charges more if users want to opt for a more private option.

“Low-income consumers already have low rates of broadband adoption, and as your work continues in this proceeding, the Commission should pay special attention to practices that would disadvantage low-income consumers in particular,” she said. “Just as the Commission has protected consumers' privacy when it comes to traditional telephone service, so too should the Commission protect consumers' privacy when it comes to broadband.”

The privacy proposal is expected to be voted on later this year. Republicans and industry representatives have said the FCC should more closely align its planned rules with those used by the Federal Trade Commission, which regulated privacy for internet providers before the FCC got the authority after approving strict net neutrality rules last year.

Critics of the proposed rules argue it will confuse consumers when the FTC is regulating companies that do business on the internet, like Facebook and Google, while the FCC governs the companies that operate the internet infrastructure. Internet service providers, particularly wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T, are also fretting that the rules will hurt potentially lucrative pushes into digital advertising.