Consumers Groups Urge FCC Regulation Of BT

Tasked with crafting a national broadband policy, the Federal Communications Commission recently solicited opinions on the initiative. So far, hundreds of commenters -- including Internet service providers, public interest groups, think tanks, and even Wired magazine -- have weighed in.

Their suggestions cover much ground, including everything from net neutrality principles to increasing competition to proposing that broadband be considered an essential utility.

A few groups specifically addressed privacy and behavioral targeting. The Center for Democracy & Technology, for one, reiterated a proposal for a registry, similar to the do-not-call list, to allow people to opt out of all online behavioral targeting. "A national broadband plan should call on the FTC to continue to play an active role in promoting strong privacy practices, even in advance of the enactment of any further legislation," the CDT says. The organization specifically suggested that the FCC should ask the FTC to "work with industry to explore ideas for improving consumer choice online, including the possibility of a 'Do Not Track List.' "

The consumer advocacy organizations Center for Digital Democracy, U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse called on the FCC to itself regulate behavioral advertising as well as deep packet inspection -- a technology used by companies like the now-defunct NebuAd to gather information about people's Web activity and send them targeted ads.

"Increasingly, companies are using deep packet inspection and targeted behavioral advertising in tandem in order to create detailed profiles on individual consumers that are then used by companies in attempts to manipulate consumers' actions," the consumer groups say. "It is necessary for the FCC to step in and regulate companies' use of targeted behavioral profiling, as well as DPI, in order to alleviate consumer confusion and ensure adequate privacy and security protection of consumer data."

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