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WASHINGTON — At Thursday’s open meeting, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services.” Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel voted for the item.

These proposed rules build on the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order and broadband reclassification decision. They recognize that broadband Internet service providers have statutory obligations to protect their customers’ privacy and obtain their consent before sharing their personal information with third parties or using that information for purposes unrelated to providing the underlying service.

Free Press Policy Counsel Gaurav Laroia made the following statement:

“The FCC has rightly recognized the duty ISPs have to protect their customers’ privacy. The law is clear, and the FCC must adopt the strong protections obligated by Section 222 of the Communications Act.

“Consumers face real privacy harms from their ISPs. Earlier this month, the FCC levied a $1.3 million fine against Verizon over the company’s secret tracking of its customers. Other ISPs have programs that repackage and sell their users’ browsing histories to online marketers, even as most of their customers remain in the dark about what’s being done with their data.

“The FCC is asking the right questions in its call for comments. An effective framework must consider the issues of pay-for-privacy, deep-packet inspection, upselling services, competition and data security.

“Chairman Wheeler deserves credit for acknowledging the role that ISPs have as the gatekeepers to the Internet. By virtue of their position, ISPs have near-unfettered access to our Internet traffic, allowing them to build comprehensive profiles of their users by surveilling the websites they visit and tracking the services they use online. This is why Congress directed the FCC to take special care in protecting against use of this information without users’ affirmative consent.”

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