• FTC Sues TracFone For Throttling Mobile Users
    On the heels of its lawsuit against AT&T, the Federal Trade Commission has taken action against another mobile company that allegedly offered "unlimited" data and then throttled customers who exceeded an unadvertised data cap. The newest case is against TracFone, which allegedly sold $45-a-month pre-paid "unlimited" data plans to around 6.25 million customers. The FTC says that TracFone slowed down the broadband connections of those people, if they exceeded caps ranging from 1 GB to 3 GB. In many cases, the throttled service was too slow for customers to use apps like Netflix or Skype, the FTC alleged.
  • FCC Warns Hotels Not To Block WiFi
    Last year, the Federal Communications Commission fined Marriott Hotels $600,000 for illegally blocking WiFi hotspots at the Gaylord Opryland, in Nashville. Not only did the hotel prevent people from using their smartphones to create hotspots, but it charged guests and exhibitors as much as $1,000 a day to connect to the hotel's own WiFi network, according to the FCC. Marriott is not the only hotel operator to think that WiFi blocking is a good idea. The FCC said in a warning issued today that it's currently investigating "several" complaints about WiFi blocking by companies.
  • FCC Urged To Impose Privacy Rules On Broadband Providers
    Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog is telling the Federal Communications Commission that new broadband regulations should include privacy obligations. "If consumers believe that their broadband provider substantially threatens their privacy, they are less likely to use the Internet," the group says in a filing submitted to the FCC today.
  • Privacy Concerns Spark Government To Revise Health Insurance Site
    Earlier this week, it emerged that the White House's health insurance site, HealthCare.gov, was leaking information about visitors to ad networks. The data sent to ad networks potentially included people's ZIP codes, income levels, and health-related information, like whether they smoked or were pregnant, according to reports by The Associated Press and Electronic Frontier Foundation. By today, however, the site was reconfigured so that it's no longer leaking the information, the AP reports.
  • FTC Consumer Protection Head Warns Ad Companies About Privacy
    The ad industry shouldn't "play games" with privacy by crafting policies that use language in ways that defy consumer expectations, Federal Trade Commission consumer protection head Jessica Rich said this week at an industry event. "If they purport to limit tracking based on sensitive data," Rich said, referring to industry privacy codes, "they shouldn't play games about what 'sensitive data' means, such as defining medical data to mean only official medical records."
  • Democrats Express Concern About Net Neutrality Compromise
    For at least a decade, Republican lawmakers have said there's no need for net neutrality regulations that would prohibit ISPs from blocking or degrading traffic. But now that the Federal Communications Commission appears poised to impose common-carrier rules on broadband companies, the GOP is changing its tune. Late last week, Republicans in the House and Senate unveiled a compromise bill that would require broadband providers to follow some net neutrality principles, and would ban ISPs from blocking sites, throttling content and from engaging in "paid prioritization" -- the industry term for charging companies higher fees for faster delivery of their ...
  • Amazon Criticizes GOP Net Neutrality Proposal
    Amazon is raising concerns about a net neutrality proposal unveiled late last week by Republicans. The draft bill, circulated by GOP lawmakers, would impose some net neutrality rules on broadband providers, including a ban on throttling and pay-for-play fast lanes. But the measure also would limit the Federal Communications Commission's power to craft new regulations.
  • FCC's Republicans Oppose Obama On Muni-Broadband
    Last week, President Obama threw his support behind muni-broadband and called for an end to state laws that prevent cities from building their own networks. Shortly after his speech, the Commerce Department's official comments on the matter were filed. "Communities have a critical role in ensuring that the broadband needs of all of their citizens are met, particularly in unserved or underserved areas," Lawrence Strickling, assistant secretary for communications and information, said in a letter to the FCC. "The Administration urges the FCC to ensure that communities have the tools necessary to satisfy their citizens' demand for broadband."
  • Turn Stops Using 'Zombie Cookies' For Ad Targeting
    Ad company Turn said today that it will suspend its controversial practice of re-creating cookies that users have deleted, pending further review. "We have heard the concerns and are actively re-evaluating this method," Turn's general counsel and chief privacy officer Max Ochoa said today in a blog post. He says the company will change its practice by early February.
  • Privacy Advocates Urge Verizon Wireless To Abandon Tracking Program
    The digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation is urging Verizon Wireless to abandon a tracking technology that enables ad networks to collect data and send targeted ads to mobile users -- even when they try to avoid tracking by shedding their cookies. "It is clear that Verizon does not understand the privacy risks it is imposing on its customers," the EFF says in a blog post this week.
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