Consumer, Privacy and Children’s Advocates Oppose Attempts by Industry to Eliminate Privacy Protections of all ISP Customers, Including Children
By: Katharina Kopp | Mar 7 2017
Washington, DC (March 6, 2017): The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Common Sense Kids Action, Consumer Action and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject industry requests to rescind the FCC’s broadband privacy rules, as this would leave parents effectively without any tools to protect their children’s privacy on broadband Internet Service Provider networks (ISPs). The groups warned that any attempts to modify the privacy rule would significantly weaken the privacy protections for children. The filing to the FCC was drafted by the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center (IPR).
In October 2016, the Federal Communications Commission adopted ground-breaking privacy rules protecting the personal information of broadband internet service customers, including children. The FCC rules set limits on what internet service providers may do with the highly sensitive data that they collect in the course of providing internet service. These rules were intended to give consumers and parents the tools they need to make informed decisions about how their information, or the information of their children, is used by their ISP. Most significantly, the rules require ISPs to obtain opt-in approval for use and sharing of sensitive customer personal information for purposes other than providing broadband service. “Sensitive” information includes precise geo-location, financial information, health information, children’s information, social security numbers, web browsing history, app usage history and the content of communications.
In their filing, the advocates oppose petitions filed by ISPs, including Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner, that ask the FCC to reconsider its broadband privacy Order. The advocates explain in their filing with the FCC:
- Treating children’s information as sensitive and requiring notice and opt-in consent is necessary to protect children and is consistent with the FTC’s practices. This aspect of the rules is necessary, although not sufficient to protect children’s privacy.
- All web browsing and application usage histories must be treated as sensitive information because children's information is mixed with that of adults. In order to protect children from targeted advertising, all users' browsing and application histories must receive protection as such histories reveal traits, characteristics, likes, and dislikes.
- Marketers, who are intensely interested in targeting children and adolescents, would have a much greater ability to take unfair advantage of children, without these rules in place.
- The FCC should retain opt-in requirements for use of all categories of sensitive information, such as for web browsing and application usage histories. Since this data is inextricably intertwined with adult activities, any required additional sorting of this data into sensitive and non-sensitive data would inevitably lead to further erosion of privacy of all ISP users.
- Most Americans are oblivious to modern day big data practices and to the resulting potential risks to themselves or society at large. When it comes to vulnerable children it must be the obligation of ISPs to make a convincing case to parents that opting into the ISP’s data practices is in the best interest of their children.
The following can be attributed to Katharina Kopp, Deputy Director, Center for Digital Democracy:
- The FCC Privacy Rules protect the fundamental rights of children to enjoy privacy and freedom from age-inappropriate commercial exploitation. Any attempts to weaken these rules is an attempt to leave parents and their children defenseless against powerful corporate interests. Digital food marketing of unhealthy foods to children and teens, for example, has contributed to an obesity epidemic that harms us all. This is unfair, unjust and not in the public interest. We call on the FCC to implement the Privacy Order in its entirety without any delay.
The following can be attributed to Josh Golin, Executive Director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood
- This is a crucial test for the FCC. Will the Commission insist that parents have a right to protect their children’s privacy online? Or will the FCC aid and abet the ISP’s efforts to build digital marketing profiles of vulnerable children? We call on the Commission to do the right thing and implement the Privacy Order.
The following statement can be attributed to Linda Sherry, Director of National Priorities, Consumer Action:
- Consumer Action opposes efforts to rescind the FCC’s broadband privacy rules, which would jeopardize the privacy of all internet service customers and strip them of the right to assert control over their sensitive information including geo-location, financial, health, etc. We join the Center for Digital Democracy in highlighting the potential harm to children, a highly vulnerable and defenseless population that has gained important new rights under the rule, which specifically recognizes the sensitivity of children’s information.
The Center for Digital Democracy is a leading nonprofit organization focused on empowering and protecting the rights of the public in the digital era.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood support parents’ efforts to raise healthy families by limiting commercial access to children.
Consumer Action empowers low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers nationwide to prosper through education and advocacy.
EPIC is a public interest research center in Washington, DC, established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, freedom of expression, and democratic values in the information age.