AT&T Statement on Protecting Customers’ Privacy Rights

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on January 27, 2017 at 7:22 pm

Today, in a petition to stay the Federal Communications Commission’s flawed privacy rules, several associations representing U.S. internet service providers (ISPs) released detailed principles, fully supported by AT&T, that reaffirm ISPs’ commitment to protecting customers’ privacy online.

The following statement may be attributed to Joan Marsh, AT&T Senior Vice President of Federal Regulatory:

“AT&T has long been committed to a clear and transparent approach to protecting the privacy rights of our customers. Our approach is consistent with the established framework used by the Federal Trade Commission, which regulates the privacy practices of virtually all other companies operating in the internet ecosystem.

“As we previously noted, the framework adopted last fall by the FCC significantly departed from the FTC regime, most importantly in the treatment of web browsing and app history data. The FCC’s order failed to recognize that consumers want their information protected based on the sensitivity of the information, not the entity collecting it. The FCC’s divergent, and illogical, approach will serve only to confuse consumers, who will continue to see ads based on their web browsing history collected by edge providers even after being told by their service provider that their consent is required for use of such information.

“Any effective regulatory approach to privacy should protect information in a consistent manner based on its sensitivity, create uniform standards for the entire ecosystem and, ultimately, be enforced by a single government agency.”

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AT&T Statement on FCC’s Privacy Order

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on October 27, 2016 at 11:04 am

The following may be attributed to Joan Marsh, AT&T Senior Vice President of Federal Regulatory:

“AT&T has long been committed to a clear and transparent approach to ensuring that the privacy rights of our customers are protected. For this reason, AT&T is pleased that the FCC listened to the parties to this proceeding, including the FTC, and adopted a privacy framework that mirrors in many ways the approach taken by the FTC, which regulates the privacy practices of virtually all other companies operating in the internet ecosystem. We also support the decision by the Commission to expand the permissible scope of reasonable first-party marketing and to harmonize the voice and data rules to ensure consistent implementation and enforcement.

“The framework adopted today, however, departs from the FTC regime in significant and illogical ways, most importantly in the treatment of web browsing and app history data. In this regard, the FCC’s order falls short of recognizing that consumers want their information protected based on the sensitivity of the information collected, not the entity collecting it. The FCC’s divergent approach will ultimately serve only to confuse consumers, who will continue to see ads based on their web browsing history generated by edge providers even after they have been told by their service provider that their consent is required for use of such information.”

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TOPICS: Consumers, Privacy
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The FCC Seizes the Reins on Privacy: Observations from Our Summer Internship

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on August 10, 2016 at 2:13 pm

By Lindsey Knapton, Alex McLeod, Sean Vallancourt, AT&T Summer Interns 

(The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the student authors and are not attributable to AT&T)

When we each arrived at AT&T’s DC offices earlier this summer for our internships, we knew that we would have a front seat for policy discussions around some of the most hotly debated topics, including net neutrality, privacy and the march toward 5G wireless technologies. Little did we know the discussions would take such an interesting turn after the D.C. Circuit released its long awaited net neutrality decision. While some claimed victory, others were left with unanswered questions regarding the Court’s decision. In US Telecom v. FCC, the Court allowed the FCC to reclassify Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) offerings as telecommunications services rather than information services. The Court also determined that mobile broadband services are now commercial rather than private because mobile broadband is an interconnected service that is a part of the new public switched network that includes IP addresses. These decisions, which deviate from FCC precedent regarding ISPs and broadband Internet access services, were only marginally explained in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order. Yet the Court accepted the FCC’s limited explanation as sufficient justification for its decision.

As a result of this decision, many scholars are left questioning: how much deference should administrative agencies receive in interpreting a Congressional statute? In Chevron, the Supreme Court required that an agency must give a reasonable explanation to justify its action but, after the DC Circuit decision, many question whether agencies should be held to a higher standard. As a result of the Court’s reclassification choices in US Telecom v. FCC, the FCC has extended its reach in regulating the telecommunications industry; and the impact of the D.C. Circuit’s decision will continue to affect all telecommunications operations, including privacy and wireless issues.

When the D.C. Circuit upheld the 2015 Open Internet Order, it was known that there would be significant restructuring of the privacy rules that govern ISPs. Before the FCC reclassified ISPs as common carriers, the sensitivity of data used and shared on the Internet by ISPs was subject to the Federal Trade Commission’s flexible regulation regime. The FTC’s rules did not apply only to ISPs – but to every player on the Internet, including edge providers, such as Google and Facebook. Since assuming sole authority over ISPs, the FCC has released a set of proposed privacy rules to provide clarity to an ecosystem it considers chaotic. Critics of the rules, however, assert that only confusion will arise from the FCC’s onerous proposals. While the FCC could have proposed rules to mirror the FTC’s longstanding regime, which has, according to many leading industry players, worked effectively, the FCC proposed a code of unprecedented heft, which could severely curtail the marketing practices of many major ISPs. While the rules have not yet been adopted – and while it is far too early to tell how they will affect the business practice of ISPs – they have already been tied to the recent merger of Verizon and Yahoo, which many observers interpret as a sign of things to come as ISPs expand their data marketing operation.

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AT&T Statement on Bogus
Set-Top Box Privacy Complaint

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on June 9, 2016 at 12:14 pm

The following may be attributed to Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs:

“AT&T’s use of anonymous and aggregate set-top box information is entirely consistent with the statute. Our disclosures tell our customers exactly how we use that data and provide tools for customers to opt out.  Frankly, this complaint is bogus, and seems mainly designed to distract the public from the overwhelming bipartisan opposition to the FCC’s controversial set-top box plan.  That plan itself will erode existing consumer privacy protections, not to mention its many other harms.  Because the plan’s few remaining supporters have no answer to that charge, they’ve decided to invent a false privacy claim.  This smacks of desperation, and it also carries the whiff of hypocrisy.  It’s further proof, if any is needed, that the plan’s supporters have lost the public policy debate on this issue.”

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The Privacy Misdirection

Posted by: Bob Quinn on May 27, 2016 at 8:02 am

Today, we will file our official comments in the Commission’s privacy proceeding. The fundamental message will be that the FCC should follow the FTC’s lead and adopt a notice and consent framework for privacy that is entirely consistent with the FTC framework that has governed since the inception of the Internet.  That is contrary to the FCC’s current proposal neatly summarized by FCC Chairman Wheeler at a recent hearing: “For decades, the Commission has steadfastly protected consumers against misuse of their information by [telephone companies] ….  It only makes sense that consumers should enjoy similar privacy protections in the world of broadband.”  The problem with the FCC’s current approach is that it doesn’t reflect the reality of how the internet actually works.

That “misperception” is captured by a wrong-headed conclusion in the NPRM that ISPs are uniquely in a position to develop highly detailed and comprehensive profiles of their customers.  It is just not true.  In a prior blog, I talked about Prof. Peter Swire’s paper commissioned to help educate the FCC on the different data collection capabilities of all the platforms operating in the internet ecosystem.  [Not] surprisingly, that paper was neither cited nor referenced in the NPRM.

So, it shouldn’t be a shock that a recent Future of Privacy Forum blog post explained that the FCC’s proposed rules reflect “a fundamental misunderstanding of the current online advertising ecosystem, which is fully capable of tracking individual behavior across the Internet as well as between devices.” The post visually illustrates how a consumer’s visit to a single website (WebMD.com) actually results in information being shared with, and received from, 24 third party sites. Once these connections are established, these ad networks are then able to track the consumer and link data about that consumer as she/he browses the internet. If the connection is to a party that has personal information about you (e.g., a social media or email platform), that third party can easily append this new web browsing information back to your personal profile of your internet activity. If the connection is made via a mobile device, the unique device advertising id allows the third party to add to or build a similar profile of the internet activity specific to that device.  So, when the Chairman testified that when you make a decision to access Google, WebMD or Facebook that “only one entity collects all of that information,” he was just flat out wrong.

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