Cable, phone industry urge FCC to limit Internet privacy protections

By David Shepardson WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of trade associations representing major cable and telephone companies on Thursday urged the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to limit protections in forthcoming broadband privacy rules. Broadband providers currently collect significant amounts of consumer data and some use data for targeted advertising, drawing criticism from privacy advocates. The American Cable Association, U.S. Telecom Association, Consumer Technology Association, National Cable & Telecommunications Association and other groups wrote FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler urging him to propose limited broadband privacy protections consistent with the Federal Trade Commission's rules that bar "unfair or deceptive" practices. The letter comes after a coalition of groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Digital Democracy and Electronic Frontier Foundation urged the FCC to write sweeping privacy protections for the nation's broadband users. The letter suggested the FCC could "identify privacy or security goals, and afford providers, including smaller providers with limited resources, flexibility in achieving those goals. Rules dictating specific methods quickly become out of date and out of step with constantly changing technology, and will only hamper innovation and harm consumers." Jeffrey Chester, executive director of Center for Digital Democracy, said the industry letter was "an attempt by the phone and cable giants to stop the FCC from protecting the privacy of broadband consumers." Chester argued that when major Internet providers "are aggressively expanding capabilities to monitor and monetize their customer data across all platforms, including TV, they want to ensure there’s no consumer cop on the beat."AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc are among companies affected by new rules. The FCC has new authority to set privacy rules after it reclassified broadband providers last year as part of new net neutrality regulations. A federal appeals court has not ruled on a court challenge to that decision. Wheeler told Reuters on Thursday he did not see the letter, but reiterated he hoped the commission would move "with dispatch" on new privacy rules. Wheeler said previously broadband providers must make sure information they collect about consumers is secure, that they are informed and have a choice about whether to participate. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bernard Orr)