Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]
According to The Hill’s Hillicon Valley blog, the Federal Communications Commission will vote later this month on sweeping privacy rules for mobile carriers that may see increased protections for consumers put into place.
The vote will take place on June 27th. At stake is whether US wireless providers are required to undertake and enforce “reasonable precautions” regarding their users’ personal data. What may be protected? The precise sort of thing that the Carrier IQ scandal erupted over: personal information regarding the use of cellular devices.
The FCC will vote to possibly protect a consumer’s call data – length, location, etc – and the like.
If you are surprised that your personal data of that variety isn’t already protected, you are slightly behind the times. Why is the FCC taking up the issue, and not Congress? In part at least because the Mobile Device Privacy Act failed in the last congress. It would have addressed similar issues, as TNW reported at the time:
[Under the bill, any] entity that sells either a mobile service, a mobile device, or offers the download of a mobile application, which contains ‘monitoring software’ must inform the person that is being sold the service, device, or provided the application of that fact.
What must the consumer be told? Paraphrasing from the bill itself: That the monitoring software is installed, what type of information is being monitored and transmitted, with whom that information might be shared, how the information will be used, and what the consumer can do to prohibit further collection, even if they have provided permission in the past. Also, ‘additional information’ that the FTC deems appropriate must be provided.
The bill died after being referred to committee.
As The Hill notes in its report, cellular companies previously called on the FCC top enact voluntary privacy rules, instead of mandatory standards. What might change under such a system? Likely little other a cosmetic change or two; if the FCC wants to strictly limit the use of private data by wireless companies without their disclosing that fact to their users, it will have to enact something stiffer.
There has been some static as to whether the FCC in fact has the necessary authority to take a stand on this issue. Such public murmurers do not appear to have had an impact on the FCC’s forward motion.
The Carrier IQ scandal led to class action lawsuits. It’s time we had real standards in place to provide ground rules for how consumer’s mobile information and actions can be tracked, and shared with third parties.
Top Image Credit: Dave Newman
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