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Privacy Is Not About the Size of the Pipes

Is privacy a broadband issue? We think not. Privacy is based on what consumers care about, not the speed of the pipe.


NetChoice filed comments today with the FCC, which were in response to the agency’s request for comments on online privacy issues. The FCC asked for comments on the use of personal information, identity management services and privacy protections across broadband applications. The questions raised in the request were drafted entirely by the Center for Democracy and Technology, and are an attempt to inject the privacy debate into discussion of the National Broadband Plan.


Our comments took a nuanced approached—we focused our response on the appropriateness of this inquiry as it relates to Internet privacy issues. While we assert that the FCC doesn’t have the legal authority if it were to act, we focus the bulk of our comments on how the FTC has already  established jurisdiction and occupies the online privacy issue area. We also highlight how the FCC’s ability to regulate broadband pipes as infrastructure does not convey jurisdiction to regulate that which flows over the pipes as information. Importantly, privacy is not a broadband issue:  the privacy policies of the ends (consumers and online services) are not defined by the middle (the speed of the communications pipe).


In short, our comments state:


  • NetChoice members care about the privacy of our customers
  • The exchange of data between and among users and online services create valuable opportunities for socially beneficial business models
  • The FTC has already established jurisdiction, including in the areas of reviewing behavioral advertising practices, COPPA and adherence to privacy policies
  • NetChoice will continue to engage on privacy matters at the state and federal level. Privacy is an important issue not because it is specific to broadband; rather, because privacy is a consumer-driven expectation that must be met regardless of transmission technology.


-Braden Cox