HomenewsreleaseInternet Service Providers › Verizon’s “Supercookies” Demonstrate Need For FCC To Ensure Privacy Protections Are Maintained When It Issues New ‘Net Neutrality Rules, Consumer Watchdog Says

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Verizon’s “Supercookies” Demonstrate Need For FCC To Ensure Privacy Protections Are Maintained When It Issues New ‘Net Neutrality Rules, Consumer Watchdog Says

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John M. Simpson

SANTA MONICA, CA – Verizon’s use of “Supercookies” underscores the need for the Federal Communications Commission to maintain privacy and consumer protections as it reclassifies broadband companies such as Verizon as common carriers in order to protect ‘net neutrality, Consumer Watchdog said today.

The nonpartisan, public interest group made the call for continued privacy and consumer protections in a letter to the FCC, which is expected to issues new ‘net neutrality rules next month.

Verizon’s use of “Supercookies” drew fire because it has allowed third parties to track users without any consumer control over what and when information is kept about their online activity.  The practice was the focus of a New York Times Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/technology/verizons-mobile-supercookies-seen-as-threat-to-privacy.html

“Verizon’s supercookies are a perfect example of why the FCC must include privacy protections as they reclassify companies such as Verizon,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “These intrusive trackers remove any ability for consumer control.”

Consumer Watchdog’s letter said: “In regulating broadband under Title II it is essential that the Commission apply sections of Title II regarding universal service, consumer protection and competition.

 “As the Commission has said, the Internet has been successful because it is an open platform.  It must continue to be open, treating all comers equally, so that ‘a bit is just a bit.’  Reclassification will guarantee this and will prevent the creation of high-speed Internet service for those who can afford to pay a premium toll exacted by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), while the rest of us are condemned to a barely adequate, clogged and congested Internet service.   Consumer Watchdog strongly supports reclassification as the only effective way to ensure true ‘net neutrality.”

Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrfcc012615.pdf

The key question facing the Commission is how Title II should be applied to accomplish this goal of ensuring ‘net neutrality, Consumer Watchdog said. Sections of the act date to 1934 and are no longer relevant to today’s technology, Consumer Watchdog noted. Thus, the Commission has the ability to “forbear” from exercising authority in areas that are no longer relevant or necessary to achieve the goals of U.S. communications policy.

“Some have suggested that ‘net neutrality could be implemented merely by applying only Sections 201, 202, and 208 of the Act and forbearing on everything else,” wrote Simpson. “This would be a serious error because it would leave the Commission no ability to offer regulations key to protecting consumers and furthering U.S. communications policy in other important areas.”

Consumer Watchdog identified 13 additional sections of Title II that should be applied to broadband providers when they are reclassified.

“Sec. 222 is perhaps the most important provision from a consumer’s perspective. It was explicitly put in place so that telephone companies could not exploit their copper networks to impact people’s privacy,” wrote Simpson. “This vital protection should exist related to private information secured from digital networks. The FCC must adopt regulations to ensure that the integrity and privacy of data gathered on the broadband networks we use are maintained.”

The letter concluded: “The important point is that these sections of Title II offer important consumer protections in such areas as privacy that are a foundation for sound communications policy.  If consumers believe that their broadband provider substantially threatens their privacy, they are less likely to use the Internet.  We urge the Commission to act accordingly and decisively so consumers’ interests are protected.”

In addition to Sections 201, 202, and 208 the following 13 sections should be applied to broadband carriers after reclassification Consumer Watchdog said:

UNIVERSAL SERVICE
Sec. 214. [47 U.S.C. 214] Extension Of Lines
Sec. 225. [47 U.S.C. 225] Telecommunications Services for Hearing-Impaired and Speech-Impaired Individuals.
Sec. 254. [47 U.S.C. 254] Universal Service.
Sec. 255. [47 U.S.C. 255] Access by Persons With Disabilities.

CONSUMER PROTECTION
Sec. 217. [47 U.S.C. 217] Liability of Carrier for Acts and Omissions of Agents.
Sec. 222. [47 U.S.C. 222] Privacy Of Customer Information.
Sec. 230. [47 U.S.C. 230] Protection for Private Blocking and Screening of Offensive Material.
Sec. 258. [47 U.S.C. 258] Illegal Changes in Subscriber Carrier Selections.

COMPETITION
Sec. 224. [47 U.S.C. 224] Regulation of Pole Attachments.
Sec. 253. [47 U.S.C. 253] Removal of Barriers to Entry.
Sec. 251. [47 U.S.C. 251] Interconnection
Sec. 256. [47 U.S.C. 256] Coordination for Interconnectivity.
Sec. 257. [47 U.S.C. 257] Market Entry Barriers Proceeding.

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