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Broadband Providers Will Need Permission to Collect Private Data

“There is a basic truth: It is the consumer’s information. It is not the information of the network the consumer hires to deliver that information. What this item does is to say that the consumer has the right to make a decision about how her or his information is used,” said Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the F.C.C.


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WASHINGTON — Federal officials on Thursday approved privacy rules that will curb the ability of broadband providers to collect data about users, dealing a blow to AT&T, Verizon Communications and others that rely on such information for their advertising businesses.

The new privacy rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission require broadband providers to get permission to collect data on a subscriber’s web browsing, app use, location and financial information. Currently, broadband providers can track users unless those individuals tell them to stop.

The F.C.C. said the rules, approved in a three-to-two vote along party lines, were necessary to protect internet users who want more control over how companies treat their private information. The agency said it created the rules after it reclassified broadband last year into a service like a utility, a move that required broadband to have privacy rules similar to those imposed on phone companies.

The decision hurts companies, including Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, that rely on user data to create profiles on subscribers for ads tailored to an individual’s preferences.

It also takes some air out of the goals of AT&T’s $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner, even before the ink on that deal has dried. The companies said they wanted to combine resources to move more forcefully into targeted advertising. Crucial to that ambition is information about AT&T’s wireless and home broadband users, combined with Time Warner’s viewer data and its huge audience. That would help the merged companies serve up, say, a tailored promotion for Gap Kids in downtown Atlanta.

Interesting that they're going after broadband providers while letting Google and Facebook run free. 

Google and Facebook aren't "providers".

"Broadband providers said the rules went much further than phone privacy rules and unfairly put them at a disadvantage to web companies like Google and Facebook, which do not have to follow similar privacy regulations but increasingly challenge their businesses.

AT&T, Verizon and Comcast have acquired media companies in recent years with an eye toward targeted advertising. The F.C.C. rules apply only to their broadband businesses, which would mean data from the habits of AT&T’s wireless and home broadband customers would be subject to the regulations, but not data about AT&T’s DirecTV users or users of the HBO Now app, for example."

You can see why the providers want to be more like Facebook and Google.

More defensibility, more money. 

(My personal bit of rebellion — after a few intentional searches of travel sites, beautiful images show up for days on my screen's periphery.)

That's not necessarily a bad thing.