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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, October 27

Rick Boucher on the FCC’s New Privacy Rules


“The FCC’s new privacy rules board up the windows while leaving the doors unlocked. Rather than expanding the definition of sensitive data to include all web browsing and app usage history, the FCC should adopt the FTC’s more sensible framework as the privacy requirements for ISPs so the entire internet ecosystem is governed by the same rules. The bifurcated system that the Commission has created will surely harm consumers by creating confusion. There is a better way.” — Rick Boucher, Honorary Chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance

Wednesday, October 26

Boucher on Privacy


IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher — who has long been involved in online privacy — has an op-ed on the FCC’s latest privacy direction in Morning Consult. An excerpt:

Chairman Tom Wheeler now claims that his revised proposal tracks the Federal Trade Commission’s existing privacy framework, which governs the conduct of internet edge providers, such as e-commerce companies. Given broad consumer acceptance and the massive commercial growth of the internet under the FTC’s framework, many interested stakeholders asked the FCC during its public comment period to adopt the FTC’s framework as the privacy requirements for ISPs. Doing so would promote clarity for consumers and ensure a consistent set of rules across the internet ecosystem.

Unfortunately, contrary to the chairman’s claim, the FCC is on the verge of embracing a much broader set of ISP privacy requirements than the FTC’s framework imposes on edge providers. The FCC proposal would require that ISP customers grant affirmative “opt in” consent before the ISP could use virtually any web browsing data. By contrast, under the FTC’s “opt out” framework, no such requirement exists when consumers search and browse on edge providers’ websites.

You can check out Boucher’s full piece over at Morning Consult.

Thursday, October 20

A Quote from One of the Earliest Champions of Privacy


“Consumer data is inconsistently protected when it’s not allowed to be used in certain ways by some companies but is permitted to be used in the same ways by others. In line with the FTC’s model, which applies to Internet edge providers, the FCC should develop an approach to privacy for ISPs with the level of protection based on the sensitivity of the data and how it’s being used. By conforming the privacy protections across the Internet ecosystem, consumer confusion will be avoided.”

Rick Boucher, a member of the US House for 28 years who chaired the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet

Wednesday, October 19

A Better Path for Privacy


With the FCC set to vote on its privacy order later this month, it’s worth examining how the Commission’s latest approach — which would greatly expand the definition of “sensitive data” and for the first time make web browsing “opt-in” for consumers — still risks harming the entire internet ecosystem.

Yes, the current course FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is, on the whole, similar to the rules the Federal Trade Commission has long used when it comes to online data. But that doesn’t mean the proposed rules wouldn’t be onerous. They would also make for a decidedly uneven playing field. For example:

• The FCC’s current proposal paints an overly broad definition of “sensitive” data that could easily slow the growth of online commerce to a crawl.

• Certain obligations imposed by the proposal would only apply to ISPs, putting their businesses at a disadvantage to edge providers.

• Whereas the FTC has always used a context approach when it comes to treating web browsing as “sensitive data,” the FCC’s makes no distinction between health information and, say, online shopping.

• Making the collection of all web browsing opt-in for consumers — as some are proposing — is not just unnecessary, it’s unrealistic and would only confuse, annoy, and discourage consumers who understand that much of their online data is not sensitive.

Obviously, everyone agrees online privacy is important — especially as more and more of what we do each day is done digitally. But the FTC, providers, companies like Google, and the Obama administration know that the seamless sharing of non-sensitive data — is critical for the online economy. So rather than attempt to reinvent, or even tinker with, the longstanding framework for privacy, the FCC should follow their neighbors on Pennsylvania NW and mirror the FTC’s policies. If it ain’t broke, and all that.

By utilizing a balanced, technology-neutral approach to privacy, the FCC can back their claims of protecting consumers from bad practices while still keeping the digital economy growing. Most of all, sticking with what has already been proven to work will dispel confusion and needless hoops for consumers to jump through just to visit their favorite websites. It will also make sure every business involving the internet, from ISPs to edge providers and online companies, are all playing by the same rules. As our own Rick Boucher wrote for The Hill back in May of this year:

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.


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.

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