Groups Concerned About FCC Collection/Sharing of Online Consumer Data
Tell FCC chairman commission needs to evaluate implications of its consumer broadband testing
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/10/2012 7:50:03 PMonline information as part of its broadband speed tests.
In a letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Communications Liberty and Innovation Project, TechFreedom, Center for Media and Democracy and a half-dozen others sais they were concerned consumers were turning over information to the government that could be used to "review" their Internet activity "without due process or judicial scrutiny."
The FCC is using the information to "help determine the access of U.S. residents to broadband (such as cable, DSL, fiber, and other broadband services, including mobile services." The info may be shared with NTIA and the Agriculture Department, both of which oversee broadband deployment and adoption grants and loans.
But the groups are worried that the test gives the FCC too much access to personal info without enough checks and balances. "These tests, according to the FCC, aim to provide citizens "better information about the quality and availability of their broadband and mobile broadband connections." But the FCC appears to be collecting more personal information than necessary, failing to fully disclose what it is collecting, and providing this information to law enforcement without any due process or judicial scrutiny."
The FCC did not have a comment on the letter at press time.
The FCC's privacy statement for the test does point out that the commission may share individual IP or street addresses or other info under some limited circumstances, which it enumerates in the statement.
"Information collected by the tests includes users' IP addresses, street addresses, mobile handset latitude/longitude data and unique handset identification numbers," said the groups, and they want the FCC to evaluate the privacy implications of that data collection, which includes:
- Disclosing personal information to other government agencies for purposes unrelated to broadband testing only when doing so is required by law;
- Minimizing its collection and retention of potentially sensitive personal information (including street addresses and handset identification numbers);
- Where the collection of such information is justified, properly de-identifying the data to preserve its value and protect the identities of individuals and their locations;
- Regularly disclosing how personal information, including street addresses, is retained, used, and shared with other governmental agencies;
- Imposing the same limits on the public disclosure of IP addresses by the FCC's contractors, M-Lab and Ookla, and its other software partners.
The coalition also wants the FCC to post a prominent warning to users before they sign up for the test about how their personal information may be used.
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