Facing uncertainty about the future of the FCC’s broadband privacy rules, three of the nation’s top four wireless carriers signed on to adhere to a set of privacy principles set forth by more than twenty internet service providers (ISPs) and industry groups.
According to Verizon, the principles are largely based on the FTC guidelines that were the law of the land before the FCC’s action on the matter. They include commitments to transparency in providing customers with clear, comprehensible, and accurate notice about the data collected, how it’s used, and what is shared with third parties; data security to protect the information collected; and sending out notifications “without unreasonable delay” when data breaches occur.
The principles also include providing customers with “easy-to-understand” choices based on the sensitivity of their personal data. That extends to a pledge to offer an opt-out choice to use non-sensitive customer information for personalized third-party marketing and rely on implied consent to use customer information for things like service fulfillment and support, fraud prevention, market research, product development, network management and security, compliance with law, and first-party marketing.
Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile were all listed as ISPs planning to follow the guidelines, regardless of the status of the FCC’s Broadband Privacy Order. Other participants include the CTIA, Comcast, Charter Communications, USTelecom, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, and WTA – Advocates for Rural Broadband.
“ISPs understand the trust our customers place in us, and we are committed to protecting our customers’ privacy and safeguarding their information,” Verizon’s press release read. “For 20 years, we have implemented policies and practices that are consistent with the FTC’s widely respected and effective privacy framework and other federal and state privacy laws. This framework helped drive the success of today’s Internet ecosystem by balancing consumer protection with the flexibility necessary to innovate. We understand the importance of maintaining our customers’ trust. That is why we will continue to provide consumer privacy protections, while at the same time meeting consumers’ expectations for innovative new product solutions to enhance their online experiences.”
The pledge came alongside a call from ISPs last Friday asking the FCC to stay implementation of the privacy rules and simultaneous campaign from 16 industry groups urging Congress to take formal action to cripple the order.
The carriers and other ISPs have argued the FCC’s Broadband Privacy rules create an unlevel playing field for companies in competition with the likes of Facebook and Google, which are regulated under the FTC’s less-strict guidelines.
Those players seeking to roll back the Privacy Order will likely find a friend in new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who objected to the rules when they were passed back in October, calling the rules “one-sided” and saying the departure from FTC guidelines made “no sense” and will lead to “consumer confusion.”
The new FCC has yet to take any action on the rules.