Markey Proposes Satellite, Online Privacy Safeguards


Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) Tuesday introduced legislation to extend privacy protections to satellite customers and to consumers who order programming online.

Current legal privacy protections protect cable subscribers but not others, Markey told House members. "This makes absolutely no sense when one considers that millions of such satellite subscribers are watching the same programming as the cable subscriber next door." The legislation would prohibit disclosures of consumer programming purchases.

Their bill also extends reach of the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988, enacted after Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental records were disclosed, to cover online purchases and not just rentals of videocassettes.

Downloads to storage devices such as Replay or TiVo are protected as well. "Consumers should certainly be accorded the same privacy protections for these services as they receive from cable operators," Markey said. "The total lack of any legal protections in this area is especially troubling given reports that companies are willing to sell certain, aggregate data about consumer viewing habits to marketers and others."

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Markey co-chair the Congressional Privacy Caucus. Barton is rumored to be next House Commerce Committee chairman and Markey is ranking Democrat of the panel’s Telecommunications Subcommittee.