Executives at AT&T, Verizon and Comcast published blogposts Friday, insisting that customers’ protections remain in place despite new legislation that revises broadband privacy rules.
Congress on Wednesday sent President Donald Trump legislation that would kill an online privacy regulation, a move that could eventually allow internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to sell the browsing habits of their customers.
AT&T’s Bob Quinn, senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs and Comcast Deputy Counsel Gerard Lewis sought to calm criticism that the bill puts consumer data at risk of being sold.
“We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual web browsing history,” Lewis wrote. “We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so.”
Karen Zacharia, Verizon chief privacy officer, added:
“Let’s set the record straight. Verizon does not sell the personal web browsing history of our customers. We don’t do it and that’s the bottom line.”
Quinn offered similar thoughts.
An excerpt of each post follows:
From AT&T’s Quinn:
Given the Beltway reaction to the commendable work by Congress to reverse the FCC’s off-course privacy rules, it’s worth taking a step back to see what’s really going on. First and foremost, all of the rhetoric that asserts – without any factual support – that the CRA vote suddenly eliminated consumer privacy protections is just plain wrong. The reality is that the FCC’s new broadband privacy rules had not yet even taken effect. And no one is saying there shouldn’t be any rules. Supporters of this action all agree that the rescinded FCC rules should be replaced by a return to the long-standing Federal Trade Commission approach. But in today’s overheated political dialogue, it is not surprising that some folks are ignoring the facts.
AT&T’s privacy protections are the same today as they were five months ago when the FCC rules were adopted. We had the same protections in place the day before the Congressional resolution was passed, and we will have the same protections the day after President Trump signs the CRA into law. The Congressional action had zero effect on the privacy protections afforded to consumers.
It is also flatly untrue that the Congressional action eliminated all legal protections governing use of consumer information. For example, AT&T and other ISPs’ actions continue to be governed by Section 222 of the Communications Act just as they were for the nearly two years that passed between reclassification of internet access as a Title II service and the passage of new rules last fall. Former FCC Chairman Wheeler wasn’t shouting then that consumers’ privacy was at risk because we had no rules. The statute itself protected consumers. And it will continue to do so until the misguided Title II reclassification decision is rescinded, at which time the FTC will resume regulating consumer broadband privacy, just as it has done since the internet was created decades ago.
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From Comcast’s Lewis:
There’s been a lot of attention and questions about consumer privacy in recent days. At Comcast, we respect and protect our customers’ personal information. Always have, always will. We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual web browsing history. We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so.
Comcast has committed to privacy principles that are consistent with the FTC’s privacy regime which has applied to all entities in the Internet ecosystem for over 20 years and which continues to apply to Internet edge companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. We believe this commitment is legally enforceable in multiple ways, including by state Attorneys General.
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From Verizon’s Zacharia:
“Consumers benefit and innovations flourish when there is one consistent consumer privacy framework that applies to all internet companies and users in the internet ecosystem. That is what Congress voted for this week.
“Let’s set the record straight. Verizon does not sell the personal web browsing history of our customers. We don’t do it and that’s the bottom line.
“We have two programs that use web browsing data — and neither of these programs involves selling customers’ personal web browsing history. Customers have a choice about participating in both programs. The Verizon Selects advertising program makes marketing to customers more personalized and useful — using de-identified information to determine which customers fit into groups that advertisers are trying to reach. The other program provides aggregate insights that might be useful for advertisers and other businesses.”
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