Because every American
should have access
to broadband Internet.

The Internet Innovation Alliance is a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations that aim to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to the critical tool that is broadband Internet. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that support equal opportunity for universal broadband availability and adoption so that everyone, everywhere can seize the benefits of the Internet - from education to health care, employment to community building, civic engagement and beyond.

The Podium

Blog posts tagged with 'Privacy'

Thursday, July 14

Throwback Thursday


Originally published by The Hill:

Consumer internet privacy: Leaving the back door unlocked

By Rick Boucher

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) asymmetric approach to internet privacy is likely to create a false sense of security among web users. Despite stringent FCC privacy regulation of internet service providers (ISPs), consumers’ information will enjoy little protection when they are interacting on social media sites, shopping online or surfing the web.

The recent Senate hearing on Internet privacy that featured FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Ajit Pai, along with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen, underscored that the FCC’s approach to internet privacy — singling out ISPs while leaving the privacy practices of edge providers essentially unregulated — is unbalanced.

By analogy, compare internet privacy to protecting a house. Wheeler’s proposal only locks the front door to guard against ISP privacy violations, while keeping the back door wide open for edge providers, such as social media and e-commerce companies.

And that’s happening as the internet ecosystem shifts radically toward the ability of edge providers to make the greater use of consumer information. A recently released study demonstrates that the expanded use of end-to-end encryption renders ISPs incapable of accessing most data that moves across their networks. Meanwhile, edge providers have complete access to information about their users, and they have sophisticated processes for monetizing it.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) suggested a viable alternative that would be better for consumers: keeping both doors locked and assuring uniform privacy protections by both ISPs and edge providers. According to Franken, “Should they [consumers] choose to leave information with companies, they need to know this information is safeguarded to the greatest degree possible. Telecommunications providers and edge providers like Google need to ensure their customers have more information [on] the data being collected from them and if it is sold to third parties.”

The FCC claims it lacks authority over edge providers. The FTC regulates privacy through its “unfair trade practice” authority, under which enforcement only occurs when companies fail to deliver the privacy protections they promise. Neither agency can require edge providers to extend the privacy protections that Franken envisions. His goal could only be achieved if Congress conveys broader regulatory authority on one agency or the other.

Also better for consumers would be to keep both doors unlocked. It’s not ideal, but at least consumers would be aware that all of their personal data on the Internet, irrespective of the device, platform or service used, is susceptible to being tracked and utilized.

Each approach has strengths and weaknesses. The first approach would offer a consistent and enforceable set of consumer rights and expectations. However, Pai thinks the doors-unlocked approach would be better for investment and continued digital innovation.

If and until Congress acts to require edge providers to respect consumer privacy, the only way to assure parity of treatment across the ecosystem and give consumers clear privacy expectations is to rely entirely on the FTC to lightly oversee privacy for both ISPs and edge providers. As Ohlhausen said, the FTC’s approach, “which has been incremental and technology neutral, has allowed us to be flexible as technology changes.” It’s probably the best we can do under current law. Singling out one segment of the internet ecosystem for special and more onerous treatment is flawed policy.

Wednesday, May 25

Boucher in The Hill

By Brad

With online privacy once again a hot topic inside the Beltway, our own Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher has tackled the issue in an op-ed for The Hill. An excerpt:

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) asymmetric approach to internet privacy is likely to create a false sense of security among web users. Despite stringent FCC privacy regulation of internet service providers (ISPs), consumers’ information will enjoy little protection when they are interacting on social media sites, shopping online or surfing the web.

The recent Senate hearing on Internet privacy that featured FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Ajit Pai, along with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen, underscored that the FCC’s approach to internet privacy — singling out ISPs while leaving the privacy practices of edge providers essentially unregulated — is unbalanced.

Check out Boucher’s full op-ed over at The Hill.

Monday, March 28

Boucher on Internet Privacy Regulations

By Brad

Bloomberg BNA recently published an op-ed from our own Rick Boucher on ensuring the Internet regulatory field remains equal for all parties. You can download a version of the full op-ed in a PDF, but here’s an excerpt:

Privacy in our digital world is once again making headlines, from the controversy over unlocking Apple’s encryption system to the latest breaches of information from e-commerce providers. Lost in all of this discussion—though also illuminated by it—is a tectonic shift in who has access to a user’s electronic data, a change that has profound implications for how privacy should be protected in the future.

Start from a simple point, with which users of digital devices would likely agree: All participants in the Internet economy should extend similar privacy protections to users. That only seems fair. The Internet user’s most important interest, after all, is to have confidence that his or her privacy is being uniformly protected throughout the Internet ecosystem by all entities that have access to users’ information.

Wednesday, September 04

Service of the Day

By Brad

Lost track of all the online accounts you have? Worried there’s too much information out there about you? Well a new site,, might be worth checking out. As Betsy Isaacson of The Huffington Post reports:

Click a button and will take you to the page on that online service that allows you to delete your account. If you click the “show info” link under each button, meanwhile, will tell you, in plain English, how to delete your account from that site.

Buttons are color-coded: a green button means deleting your account is easy, a yellow button means it’s moderately difficult, red means it’s hard and black (uh-oh) means “it’s impossible to delete your account on this site.”


Friday, May 17

The Future of Computers, the Future of Privacy

By Brad

Google believes the future is in wearable computing, and that their innovative glasses Google Glass is going to lead the way. But as Brendan Sasso of The Hill reports, at least some members of Congress aren’t too keen on where Google is attempting to go:

Eight members of Congress raised privacy fears about Google’s wearable computer, Google Glass, expressing concern the device could allow users to identify people on the street and look up personal information about them.

The lawmakers, members of the congressional Privacy Caucus, said they are concerned users could access individuals’ addresses, marital status, work history and hobbies.

As members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we are curious whether this new technology could infringe on the privacy of the average American,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Google CEO Larry Page.

In response, Google has reassured the members of Congress that privacy concerns are very much on their radar:

“We are thinking very carefully about how we design Glass because new technology always raises new issues,” a Google spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “Our Glass Explorer program, which reaches people from all walks of life, will ensure that our users become active participants in shaping the future of this technology — and we’re excited to hear the feedback.”

Monday, March 18

Privacy & Emails

By Brad

At The Hill, Brendan Sasso and Jennifer Martinez report on a new initiative from the House Judiciary Committee to examine privacy protections for emails:

Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, police only need a subpoena, issued without a judge’s approval, to read emails that have been opened or that are more than 180 days old. Privacy advocates argue the law is woefully out of date and that police should need a warrant to access emails and other private messages.

Revising the law to protect all electronic communications, regardless of how old they are, is a top goal for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

The House hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Monday, January 14

Rockefeller Retiring

By Brad

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, won’t be running for another term. At Broadcasting & Cable, John Eggerton writes about the senator’s long-standing focus on technology:

Rockefeller has been one of the strongest voices for online privacy, a cybersecurity bill backed by the White House, inquiries into the impact of TV, online and video game content on kids, and was instrumental in legislation to auction broadcast spectrum to help pay for an interoperable 911 emergency communications network.

Wednesday, September 19

Lobbying Together

By Brad

Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post reports a new lobbying coalition has been put together by a number of Internet companies:

Internet titans Facebook, Google, Amazon and Yahoo on Wednesday will launch a new lobbying association to counter efforts by federal regulators to strap new rules to their industry.

The Internet Association, led by Capitol Hill veteran Michael Beckerman, aims to band together Silicon Valley’s biggest Internet firms on issues such as piracy and copyright, privacy and cybersecurity.

Wednesday, September 12

Privacy Without Wires

By Brad

Via John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable, new legislation aimed at protecting privacy in the mobile space has been introduced in Congress:

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said Wednesday he has introduced mobile app legislation that would require app sellers to disclose the software being installed when an app is downloaded, and users to give their affirmative consent.

Some highlights from the bill include disclosure on monitoring by apps and other software, a focus on consumer consent before monitoring can proceed, and greater oversight from both the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

Wednesday, August 01

Children & Online Privacy

By Brad

At the Washington Post, Cecilia Kang reports on a renewed focus on online privacy by the FTC:

The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday it is considering online privacy rules that would make it harder for advertisers and social networks to collect information about children without permission from parents.

The FTC said its proposed rules would require third-party partners of Web sites, including “plug-ins” and ad networks, to ask parents for permission to collect information about users under 12 years of age.

Wednesday, July 11

Number of the Day

By Brad

$22.5 million, which is the amount the Federal Trade Commission will reportedly fine Google for overriding Apple’s privacy settings for its mobile Safari web browser. It would be the biggest fine the FTC has ever levied against a single company.

Tuesday, July 03

Twitter Transparency

By Brad

Via Russ Buettner of the New York Times comes an interesting twist in the online privacy debate — especially for those who often share their thoughts via social media:

A Criminal Court judge in Manhattan ruled on Monday that Twitter must turn over to prosecutors messages sent by a Brooklyn writer during the Occupy Wall Street protests last fall. In doing so, the judge, Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr., indicated that although private speech was protected, the same did not apply to public comments on Twitter.

“The Constitution gives you the right to post, but as numerous people have learned, there are still consequences for your public posts,” Judge Sciarrino wrote. “What you give to the public belongs to the public. What you keep to yourself belongs only to you.

On a related note, Twitter happened to release its “transparency report” today, and revealed that in the first half of 2012 they received more government requests for information on users than they received in all of 2011. Leading the charge when it comes to requests: the United States.

Wednesday, June 06

Connected Tweens

By Brad

Over at Broadcasting & Cable, John Eggerton examines a new survey from Cox and the National Center for Mission and Exploited Children on smartphones and kids:

The Tween Internet Safety Survey study… found that 95% of kids use their phones and game consoles to surf the Web. While 68% of parents said they monitored their kid’s Internet behavior on mobile devices, only 17% said they used parental control features on smartphones.

The full survey results are available on Cox’s website (PDF).

Monday, June 04


By Brad

In what is sure to set off a firestorm of privacy concerns, Anton Troianovski and Sjayndi Raice of the Wall Street Journal report Facebook is working on a way to attract younger users:

Facebook Inc. is developing technology that would allow children younger than 13 years old to use the social-networking site under parental supervision, a step that could help the company tap a new pool of users for revenue but also inflame privacy concerns.

Mechanisms being tested include connecting children’s accounts to their parents’ and controls that would allow parents to decide whom their kids can “friend” and what applications they can use, people who have spoken with Facebook executives about the technology said. The under-13 features could enable Facebook and its partners to charge parents for games and other entertainment accessed by their children, the people said.

This is a potential minefield for Facebook, which has always been under the privacy spotlight. If the report is true, it will be interesting to watch it play out.

Friday, June 01

Do Not Track Default

By Brad

In what could have major repercussions for the business of online marketing, Wired’s Ryan Singel reports Microsoft is making so-called “do not track” service default in the latest version of its browser Internet Explorer:

Microsoft announced Thursday that the next version of its browser, IE 10, will ship with the controversial “Do Not Track” feature turned on by default, a first among major browsers, creating a potential threat to online advertising giants.

That includes one of Microsoft’s chief rivals — Google.

The change could also threaten the still-nascent privacy standard, and prompt an ad industry revolt against it.

Given the titans involved — and Internet Explorers’s use — this could get real ugly real fast.

Wednesday, April 25

Security & Privacy

By Brad

Via The Hill‘s Brendan Sasso comes some startling new numbers from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding security on the nation’s networks:

Cyber attacks on the federal government soared 680 percent in five years, an official from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified Tuesday.

Gregory Wilshusen, director of information issues for the GAO, said federal agencies reported 42,887 cybersecurity “incidents” in 2011, compared with just 5,503 in 2006.

The incidents included malicious code, denial of service attacks and unauthorized access to systems.

Later this week, the House of Representatives is set to vote on a few cybersecurity bills, including the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (or CISPA), which has already garnered close to 800,000 petition signatures against it due to privacy concerns. As Gerry Smith of the Huffington Post reports:

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, sponsored by Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), seeks to give businesses and the federal government legal protection to share cyber threats with each other in an effort to thwart hackers.

Currently, they do not share that data because the information is classified and companies fear violating anti-trust law.

But privacy and civil liberties groups say the bill’s definition of the consumer data that can be shared with the government is overly broad, and once the data is shared, the government could use that information for other purposes—such as investigating or prosecuting crimes—without needing to obtain a warrant. They also criticize the legislation for not requiring companies to make customer information anonymous before sharing it with the government.

Tuesday, April 17

“A Slap on the Wrist”

By Brad

Via Brendan Sasso of The Hill, some lawmakers are unhappy with the FCC’s $25,000 fine for Google in the wake of the commission’s StreetView spying investigation:

This fine is a mere slap on the wrist for Google,” Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement late Sunday.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called on the Justice Department and state attorneys general to conduct their own investigation into the case.

Monday, April 16

The Ongoing Street View Spying Case

By Brad

Via David Streitfeld and Edward Wyatt of the New York Times, the FCC’s investigation of tech giant Google’s notorious Street View spying case has raised a slew of questions:

The Federal Communications Commission censured Google for obstructing an inquiry into the Street View project, which had collected Internet communications from potentially millions of unknowing households as specially equipped cars drove slowly by.

But the investigation, described in an interim report, was left unresolved because a critical participant, the Google engineer in charge of the project, cited his Fifth Amendment right and declined to talk. It is unclear who else at Google might have known about the data gathering, or when they might have known.

The FCC’s preliminary report on the Street View case is available on their website (PDF).

Monday, March 26

Passwords & Privacy

By Brad

In the wake of last week’s news that a growing number of employers are demanding the social media passwords of prospective hires, The Hill‘s Brendan Sasso reports the practice is receiving attention from the Senate:

Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) on Sunday urged federal authorities to investigate whether employers who ask for their workers’ Facebook passwords are breaking the law.

Both Senators are currently drafting legislation. Last week, Facebook strongly came out against the practice.

Friday, March 23

A Strong Response

By Brad

In response to recent stories that some employers have been asking potential hires for their social media passwords, Facebook is weighing in. As Mashable’s Sarah Kessler reports:

This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends,” [Facebook’s chief privacy officer Erin] Egan wrote on the Facebook Privacy blog. “It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability.”

Among the risks to employers, Egan says, are that they will come across information such as age or sexual orientation that could open them up to claims of discrimination if the applicant doesn’t get the job. Employers may also become responsible for information they uncover while pursuing private profiles, such as that which suggests a crime.

Page 1 of 3 pages  1 2 3 >

« Back to Blog Home