Want Your ISP to Respect Your Privacy? It May Come at a Cost

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Comcast has filed an argument (PDF) this week with the FCC to allow it to charge broadband users more to offset the burdens of maintaining their privacy. The FCC is considering new rules for Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services, which would require ISPs to disclose what information is tracked and sold, as well to provide a way for users to opt out of such tracking.

Advertisers have complained that consumers could end up with less privacy protections while large volumes of content move behind paywalls, while consumer advocates have argued that the proposed rules simply move the FCC closer to the stronger privacy protection consumers were entitled to under FTC regulation, before broadband providers were reclassified as common carriers for regulation purposes last year.

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“A bargained-for exchange of information for service is a perfectly acceptable and widely used model throughout the U.S. economy, including the Internet ecosystem, and is consistent with decades of legal precedent and policy goals related to consumer protection and privacy,” Comcast wrote to the FCC. The company also claims that blocking its plan “would harm consumers by, among other things, depriving them of lower-priced offerings.”

AT&T is already using this model to charge users of its gigabit broadband service a $30 (or more) add-on charge to opt out of a tracking program called, without any obvious irony in the promotional material, “Internet Preferences.”

In the most recent Who Has Your Back report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which measures the privacy practices of major internet companies and service providers, Comcast earned three out of a possible five stars. The report recommends Comcast adopt a stronger policy around providing users with notice about government data requests.

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