AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson this week reiterated the company's support for national legislation that would override privacy laws in California and other states.
“If there were ever an issue that you would think could get bipartisan coalescence, this is one,” he said this week at a Wall Street Journal tech conference. “How do you do business in a world where you have 50 different regulations and rules around privacy?”
In 2016, the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission passed privacy regulations that would have required broadband providers like AT&T to obtain consumers' opt-in consent before drawing on their web-browsing activity for ad targeting. (Those rules only applied to broadband providers, and not search engines, social networking services or other web-based companies.) Congress repealed the FCC's privacy regulations last year. That move prompted dozens of states to consider enacting their own privacy legislation.
California recently enacted broad data protection legislation that allows consumers to learn what personal information about them is held by businesses, and to opt out of the sale of that information. The measure is slated to take effect in 2020.
AT&T recently criticized the California law in a filing submitted to the Federal Trade Commission, and suggested the state will face a legal battle over the measure.
The company has previously argued for a national privacy law. Last year, former AT&T senior executive vice president Bob Quinn endorsed proposed online privacy legislation that would have required all Web companies -- broadband providers as well as businesses like social networking services and search engines -- to obtain consumers' opt-in consent before using their online browsing data for ad targeting.
Stephenson also reportedly said at the Journal's conference that AT&T supports a national net neutrality law that would prohibit broadband providers from blocking or throttling service.
The Obama-era net neutrality regulations -- which the FCC vacated earlier this year -- prohibited blocking and throttling, but also included other restrictions on providers. The former rules also prohibited providers from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery, and from engaging in conduct that hinders the ability of consumers and content companies to reach each other online.
AT&T's decision to “zero-rate” its own content by exempting DirecTV streams from wireless customers' data caps violated the prior net neutrality rules, former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler told lawmakers last year.