FCC Seeks Public Comments On Online Privacy
The FCC, which is in the process of drafting a national broadband plan, said today that it wants to hear from the public about matters raised in a proposed notice of inquiry by the CDT's Ari Schwartz. Those topics include how to best meet consumers' expectations of privacy online and how to build privacy protections into new technology.
"What can federal agencies do to help ensure that consumer expectations of privacy are met as new technologies platforms are developed?" Schwartz asks in the proposed notice of inquiry. "How can information be de-identified, encrypted, psuedonymized or used in aggregate in ways that are useful to help protect privacy?"
The CDT's questions potentially touch on all aspects of online privacy, ranging from the circumstances under which an Internet service provider can identify people tied to particular IP addresses to whether ad companies can use deep packet inspection to monitor traffic and serve targeted ads.
To a limited extent, commenters have already addressed some of these issues. Last year, for instance, the Federal Trade Commission asked the FCC to consider privacy issues raised by behavioral targeting, including deep packet inspection.
Overall, however, comments relating to online privacy have been dwarfed by submissions about the best way to improve broadband access. There's no question that policymakers need to figure out how to boost broadband adoption in the U.S. But they also need to figure out how consumers can keep data confidential on the Web, where the emergence of technology like deep packet inspection has made surveillance easier than in the past.
Now that the FCC has said it needs an extra month to finalize the plan, the agency will at least have more time to consider the best way to protect people's privacy as they place more and more data online.