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WASHINGTON — On Friday, Free Press submitted comments in support of Internet user privacy protections as part of the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rulemaking on “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services.”

The proposed rules build on the FCC’s 2015 decision to reclassify broadband access as a telecom service under Title II of the Communications Act, recognizing that Internet service providers have statutory obligations to protect their customers’ privacy and obtain their consent before selling their personal information.

Earlier this year, 60 civil liberties, racial justice and Internet rights groups sent a letter urging FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to take this action on behalf of Internet users. The agency issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in March.

Free Press Policy Counsel Gaurav Laroia made the following statement:

“Title II reclassification returned the FCC to the interpretation of the Communications Act that Congress intended. Having acted decisively to protect essential common-carriage principles, the agency is now simply following the congressional directive under Section 222 to safeguard the privacy of broadband customers of companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

“Congress was right when it adopted the privacy laws that continue to govern the FCC’s actions. Consumers should have the power to choose how their private information is used. Just as these carriers shouldn’t charge more based on the content of a message or the identity of its sender, they shouldn’t misuse a customer’s personal information in any way or sell it without first seeking that person’s consent.

“Internet users may be able to choose search engines, email providers and social media services that reflect their privacy preferences, but there’s no effective competition among broadband ISPs, nor much room for entry by new carriers trying to reach privacy-conscious consumers. Access providers exploit their bottleneck position to collect nearly every detail about who we talk to, what we do and say online, and — thanks to location tracking — where we do it. Without the protections the FCC is proposing even the savviest consumers are unable to fully protect their online privacy from prying eyes.

"Clear, bright-line rules protecting user privacy will preserve the common-carrier principles that keep the Internet open and secure — protecting users, businesses and the integrity of the network itself.”

Free Press’ comments are available here: http://www.freepress.net/sites/default/files/resources/free_press_section_222_comments_final_5_27_16.pdf.
 

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