Should You Be Allowed To Sell Your Privacy?
Is your privacy (your online activities, the websites you visit, your interests and other personal data) for sale? Would you voluntarily give your internet service provider permission to use that information for marketing purposes, in exchange for a discount on your monthly bill? The FCC wants your opinion on this question…
Is Your Privacy For Sale?
The FCC is soliciting public comment on its Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking intended to protect the privacy of Internet users. Among other things, the FCC wants your opinion on these questions:
“We seek comment whether a customer’s approval to use or disclose his or her proprietary information in exchange for financial incentives is meaningful if customers’ broadband choices are limited by lack of competition, switching costs, or financial hardship. Does simply offering such practices violate providers’ baseline duty under Section 222(a) to protect the confidentiality of customers’ proprietary information? Should Broadband Internet Access Service providers be prohibited from engaging in such practices?”
In other words, should ISPs be allowed to offer discounts or other valuable considerations in exchange for your permission to use your browsing history and other personal data for marketing/advertising purposes?
Alternatively, one might ask, “Should I be allowed (by the FCC) to sell my privacy?” Phrased that way, most people will say, “Sure, I should be allowed to sell any of my property.” But as with anything involving regulation of Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, et. al., it’s not that simple.
The FCC, in its 317-page NPRM, proposes to extend the same privacy protections now applicable to telephonic communications to the vaster realm of Internet communications. The three basic principles of that protection, the Commission notes, are transparency, choice, and data security.
Transparency is only satisfied when a customer must affirmatively opt-in to permitting an ISP to exploit his data, presumably after fully understanding what he’s giving up and getting for it, and what consequences he can expect. The Commission wonders if “choice” is meaningful “ if customers’ broadband choices are limited by lack of competition, switching costs, or financial hardship.”
The Telcos Weigh In
Surprisingly, the FCC currently has no rules for ISPs concerning how they protect customers’ data from theft or destruction; historically, State laws and the Federal Trade Commission have been active in these areas. The proposed rules would bring federal consistency to an interstate market, and tailor rules to the Internet specifically.
Comcast filed a brief opposing the proposed ban on “financial inducements” to secure a consumer’s consent to harvest and profit off his personal data. The company’s lawyer noted in his brief, "The (Communications) Act does not authorize the FCC to determine whether the customer is actually making a good choice." The company met with FCC officials and "urged that the Commission allow business models offering discounts or other value to consumers in exchange for allowing ISPs to use their data,” according to Comcast’s filing on that meeting. https://goo.gl/PJhsc3
AT&T already offers a “cash for data” plan. If you check that little “opt-in” box permitting the company to exploit your data, you get a $29 monthly discount off the cost of 1Gbps fiber-to-the-home service. With that discount, 1Gbps fiber services is only $70/month. But if you want to keep your privacy, the same service costs at least $99/month. Why? No reason, except to get you to part with your data.
Google Fiber, where it’s been introduced https://fiber.google.com/newcities/ cost $70/month for 1Gbps service. The City of Longmont, Colorado, which doesn’t have to turn a profit for shareholders, charges only $50/month for gigabit fiber service.
A False Choice?
In other words, AT&T’s so-called “discount” is nothing of the sort. Company marketing execs just said, “What’s the most we can get away with charging - $70? OK, add $29 to that and call it the ‘regular price, then offer the rubes a discount.”
The proposed rule would protect gullible consumers from that phony offer. It would force ISPs to actually compete - work hard at things like reliability and customer service - instead of buying customers with illusory “financial inducements.”
You might be offended that the FCC thinks you are unable to make a decision about getting a discount in exchange for the rights to your browsing history. But perhaps you need that protection just as much as your dimwit brother-in-law. Intelligence regularly succumbs to greed.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 12 Aug 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Should You Be Allowed To Sell Your Privacy? (Posted: 12 Aug 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved