The Center for Democracy & Technology joined the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) in calling for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide broadband consumers with easy-to-understand, accessible notices of broadband providers’ data practices. A 2021 investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revealed that broadband providers collect and combine a host of individualized data about consumers across their products, including the websites that customers visit, the shows they watch, the apps they use, details about home energy use, their real-time and historical location, internet search queries, and even the content of communications. Broadband providers may then use this information to build profiles about consumers and target them with ads.
To ensure consumers can make informed choices about their broadband providers, CDT and its partners urged the FCC to include three simple yes/no notices on the broadband “nutrition” labels it established last year:
- Whether the provider collects or uses consumer data for reasons other than providing broadband service;
- Whether the provider discloses consumer data to third parties for reasons other than providing broadband service, and
- Whether the consumer can opt out of this collection, use, and sharing.
The FTC’s investigation also showed that broadband providers use sensitive personal information to categorize consumers with labels such as “viewership-gay,” “pro-choice,” “African American,” “Assimilation or Origin Score,” “Jewish,” “Asian Achievers,” “Gospel and Grits,” “Hispanic Harmony,” “tough times,” and “seeking medical care.” To address the abuse of that personal information, CDT and its partners urge the FCC to consider adding a fourth disclosure on its labels on whether a broadband provider collects, uses, or shares sensitive information, such as race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, income, or age.
CDT previously urged the FCC to include privacy notices on its broadband nutrition label and outlined the FCC’s legal authority to require these notices.