Broadband 'Nutrition Labels' Should Address Privacy, Group Tells FCC

The Federal Communications Commission should require broadband providers to disclose their privacy practices -- including whether they share data about subscribers -- in a standardized, easy to read format.

That's according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which this week weighed in with the agency on its proposal to force carriers to use a “nutrition label” to reveal key information to subscribers.

“Transparency regarding personal data collection, retention, and disclosure should be a priority for broadband providers,” the privacy group writes.

The organization's comments come in response to the agency's request for input on the “nutrition label” proposal, which would obligate broadband providers to use a standardized format to disclose pricing, typical speeds, throttling practices and other crucial information.

The proposedformat, developed in 2016, includes a line for carriers to link to their privacy policies. But the Electronic Privacy Information Center says the agency should require more specific disclosures up front.

“Given mounting public attention to privacy, it is vital to present information about each broadband service provider’s practices regarding data collection and retention, as well as disclosure of data to third parties, and opt-out mechanisms, in a manner more transparent and accessible than a mere link to the provider’s privacy policy,” the group writes.

The organization specifically proposes that carriers should say in the “nutrition label” whether they disclose subscriber data, whether they collect more data than necessary to provide internet service, and whether consumers can opt out of either data collection or disclosure.

“Communicating this kind of information to consumers in an explicit, straightforward, and standardized manner is a well-established practice in other industries, for example consumer financial information,” the privacy organization writes. “This kind of rule would be an improvement over a bare link to the entirety of the provider’s privacy policy.”

The group also says in its comments that the FCC should prohibit carriers from charging higher fees to customers who say they don't want their data shared.

The agency considered -- but decided against -- banning that type of “pay-for-privacy” billing in 2016, when it passed a set of broadband privacy rules. Those rules, which were repealed by Congress in 2017, would have required carriers to obtain subscribers' opt-in consent before drawing on their web activity or app use for ad purposes. 

The Electronic Privacy Information Center isn't the only one to urge the FCC to consider privacy issues along with nutrition labels.

The think tank New America's Open Technology Institute also says in its comments that the FCC should consider whether to require providers to reveal their practices regarding data collection and tracking of subscribers.

Next story loading loading..