FCC eyes data collection for next Net neutrality battle

fcc and isps battle over data collection tom wheeler
FCC/Flickr
In March of last year, Internet users celebrated a major victory as the FCC made new Net neutrality rules public. The legislation reclassified Web access as a telecommunications service, forcing ISPs to treat all data transferred over their networks the same — but now that classification is raising other important issues.

ISPs and mobile data providers are now considered carriers under Title II of the Communications Act, according to a report from The Verge. As a result, they are now subject to rules that prevent them from throttling transfer speeds on particular content, and there are also limits on the data they can collect from their users.

Section 222 of the Communications Act states that “every telecommunications carrier has a duty to protect the confidentiality of proprietary information of, and relating to … customers.” Up until very recently, this responsibility has not been placed on the likes of ISPs and mobile carriers.

It’s no secret that data collection is big business for certain corporations. Targeted ads are increasing in usage, if not popularity, and it is information ranging from a user’s search history to their physical location that allows this kind of marketing to gain an edge over its competition.

The wording used in Section 222 is vague enough to offer up some leeway, but it seems clear that changes will be made in the future. While lawmakers might attempt to clarify exactly what user data needs to be protected and how that will be carried out, they’re sure to face opposition from the carriers.

Last week, seven cable-related lobbying groups signed and submitted a joint letter to the FCC’s Chairman, Tom Wheeler. The correspondence recommended that the organization mimic rulings laid down by the FTC, but that approach has been criticized for simply leveling fines against companies found to be at fault. Expect to hear plenty more about this topic as both sides argue their case.

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