Access Now statement on new proposed broadband privacy rules

Washington, D.C. – Today, United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler provided an update on proposed broadband privacy rules. While the rules will extend control and protections to users over how Broadband Internet Access Service (BIAS) Providers  use much of their users’ data, the update takes a step back from the previous proposal through a new distinction between categories of private information.

The rules require opt-in consent before BIAS Providers can use or share data deemed “sensitive” — a strong and necessary protection. However, so-called “non-sensitive” private data would be subject to opt-out consent.

Deservedly, financial information, health information, web browsing information, and communication content are considered “sensitive” information. But, other critical data, such as demographic information and unique device identifiers would be considered “non-sensitive.”

The rules also contain requirements for notice around the use of data and a requirement to provide notification in response to data breach, both of which are positive steps for user privacy and security.

While we hope for future reconsideration over the distinction between “sensitive” and “non-sensitive” data, Access Now continues to support approval of Chairman Wheeler’s proposal.

“As networks and technologies converge, the U.S. cannot sustain this differentiation between health, financial, and other forms of private data that all can be highly personal and revealing,” said Peter Micek, Global Policy & Legal Counsel at Access Now. “Despite the addition of arbitrary distinctions, the proposal continues to be a necessary step to extend privacy protections to internet users in the U.S.,” continued Peter Micek.