After Congress voted to repeal Obama-era FCC privacy protections last week, Comcast and other telecom companies have released lengthy statements to assure consumers that they’re committed to online privacy.
Per Comcast’s statement, the rollback of regulations doesn’t mean they’ll sell customers’ personal information. “We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual web browsing history. We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so,” said Comcast senior vice president, deputy general counsel and chief privacy officer Gerard Lewis in a blog post.
Comcast says they’ve made a commitment not to share customers’ sensitive information (financial, health, and children’s), without first obtaining “affirmative, opt-in consent.” Comcast customers can also opt out of receiving targeted ads, the company says. In January, Comcast and nearly every other Internet service provider in the country signed a letter that explained their specific policies for protecting consumer privacy, which include policies on transparency, choice, security, and notifications in the case of a data breach.
In his own blog post, Bob Quinn, AT&T senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, stressed that customers will continue to be protected under the company’s privacy policies once Trump signs the bill into law. Congress’ decision to repeal the FCC regulations “had zero effect on the privacy protections afforded to consumers,” he wrote.
So if the repeal doesn’t change much in the way of privacy protections, why have ISPs poured so much money, time and political capital into a rollback? They say they’re pushing for regulatory consistency and new paths to innovation. The joint letter underscores their desire to be regulated under the FTC’s framework, which provides “the flexibility necessary to innovate new product solutions to enhance consumers’ online experiences.”
Though Democrats are urging Donald Trump veto the bill, he’s expected to sign it soon.
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