FCC Urged To Add Privacy Disclosures To Broadband Labels

The Federal Communications Commission should require broadband providers to disclose their privacy practices in easily read, standardized formats, advocacy groups are urging.

“Simplified privacy notices will empower consumers to make informed choices among providers,” the organizations Center for Democracy & Technology, Electronic Privacy Information Center, and Ranking Digital Rights say in a recent filing with the agency.

The organizations are urging the FCC to update its broadband “nutrition labels” -- standardized formats comparable to information on food packaging.

The labels, which were officially adopted last year -- more than six years after the FCC initially proposed them -- include lines for information about a host of data, including total monthly price, early termination fees, and typical speeds.

But the labels do not require detailed information about privacy. Instead, they include space for providers to link to a privacy policy.

The FCC recently sought public comment on potential updates to the labels, including one related to privacy.

Specifically, the FCC asked it should “require providers to affirmatively state, in addition to providing their privacy policy, whether the provider collects or uses consumer data for reasons other than providing broadband service, and if this is shared with third parties.”

The NCTA--The Internet & Television Association, and the wireless industry organization CTIA both opposed the potential change, with CTIA arguing that adding privacy information to the labels “would confuse, rather than aid, customers.”

But the Electronic Privacy Information Center and other advocacy groups say that adding privacy information to the labels “would better fulfill the labels’ key purpose to provide consumers 'access to clear, easy-to-understand, and accurate information.'”

They note that the Federal Trade Commission said in a 2021 staff report that internet service providers collect and use consumer data in unexpected -- and potentially harmful -- ways.

“The three simple disclosures suggested by the Commission ... would help alert consumers to these practices,” the groups write.

They add that the FCC “should explicitly state that sharing data with affiliates and parent companies for purposes such as building behavioral profiles and targeted advertising ... would qualify as sharing subscriber data with a third party.”

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