Commentary

FCC's New Privacy Proposal: ISPs Must Obtain Opt-In Consent To Target People Based On Web Browsing History

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has refined his proposal for broadband privacy rules, but the new plan could still restrict providers' ability to send targeted ads to subscribers.

The new proposal calls for Internet service providers to obtain users' affirmative consent before using data about their "sensitive" activity for ad targeting purposes. The FCC is defining sensitive to include broad array of material, including not only geo-location information, health information, financial information and social security numbers, but also Web browsing history, app usage history and contents of communications (like the text of emails).

Currently, the ad industry doesn't generally consider Web browsing history or app usage history "sensitive."

The rules also would prohibit Internet service providers from refusing to offer service to people who don't opt-in to ad targeting.

The agency said in a statement that it will take a case-by-case approach to "pay-for-privacy" plans, but added that people "should not be forced to choose between paying inflated prices and maintaining their privacy."

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