Google: FCC Should Adopt FTC Privacy Model

Warns against requiring opt-in for all web-browsing info

Google has told the FCC it should harmonize its proposed new broadband privacy rules to the approach of the Federal Trade Commission, which tailors protections for information to the sensitivity of that information. That means no blanket opt-in regime for info used to tailor ads, says Google.

That approach puts Google on the same page as cable and other ISPs, who have argued against applying the opt-in regime on them while the FTC's more tailored approach applies to edge providers, like, for instance, Google.

In fact, Google is one of the most familiar targets of those who say it should not get disparate online privacy regulation treatment given its collection of web info from users.

ISPs had pushed for a light touch, but the FCC signaled sector-specific privacy rules were required.

Except for sharing customer information for marketing of their own or affiliated communications services, which would be an opt out regime, "all uses and sharing of consumer data would require express, affirmative 'opt-in' consent from customers," Wheeler proposed. That means targeted advertising.

While FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's proposed new broadband customer privacy rules would require opt-in consent for sharing most—and some privacy groups say it should be all—of that information with third parties, including for targeted marketing, Google says that should not be the case.

"Calls by some parties in this proceeding to extend an opt-in consent requirement to all web browsing information are unjustified," Google wrote in a letter to the FCC. "The FTC’s framework recognizes that while U.S. consumers consider healthcare or financial transactions, for example, to be sensitive information that should receive special protection, they do not have the same expectations when they shop or get a weather forecast online."

"Although Google and other companies take strong measures to avoid using sensitive data for purposes like targeting ads, consumers benefit from responsible online advertising, individualized content, and product improvements based on browsing information. The FCC’s framework should allow such differentiation based on the nature of web browsing information, regardless of the company collecting the data."

Google says the FTC's time-tested approach works and the FCC should use it.

This week the FCC is circulating its tentative agenda for the October public meeting, and a vote on his broadband privacy plan is expected to be on the docket.