Comcast’s Defense of ‘Pay-For-Privacy’ Alarms Consumer Advocates
Sam Gustin reports in Motherboard:
How much is your privacy worth?
That’s the question that Comcast customers may soon face if the broadband giant decides to start offering discounts in exchange for more intrusive access to user data.
This is not idle speculation. In a Federal Communications Commission filing this week, Comcast urged regulators not to ban internet service providers from offering cheaper service plans for those customers willing to accept increased monitoring of their web browsing habits.
In its filing, Comcast warned the FCC not to prohibit “business models offering discounts or other value to consumers in exchange for allowing ISPs to use their data.” The FCC has “no authority to prohibit or limit these types of programs,” the company said.
“A bargained-for exchange of information for service is a perfectly acceptable and widely used model throughout the US economy, including the internet ecosystem, and is consistent with decades of legal precedent and policy goals related to consumer protection and privacy,” the cable giant added.
Comcast’s filing was made in response to the FCC’s ongoing broadband privacy rule-making process. The agency is weighing tough new broadband privacy guidelines, based on its recently-upheld authority to regulate internet service providers as “common carriers” under Title II of the Communications Act.
In its broadband privacy “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” the FCC indicated that it is considering banning the kind of practice that Comcast defended. The aim of the agency’s process is to clearly delineate “opt-in” and “opt-out” standards for establishing user intent to track their web browsing habits.
Telecom giant AT&T already offers such a plan, called “Internet Preferences,” which tempts consumers with “best pricing” if they are willing to let the company “use your individual web browsing information, like the search terms you enter and the web pages you visit, to tailor ads and offers to your interests.”
Users who opt-out of “Internet Preferences,” which DSLReports calls a “deep packet inspection program that tracks your browsing behavior around the internet—down to the second,” face a $30 premium on their monthly bill.
Comcast’s filing touched off a kerfuffle among consumer advocates, who call such plans “pay-for-privacy” schemes. . .