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The FCC’s new privacy rules are toothless

Evan Schuman | Nov. 1, 2016
If opt-in agreements can be hidden within T&C documents, consumers will have little choice than to sign away their privacy rights

If the U.S. government doesn’t like these practices, then it should ban them. If it wants them to happen only when consumers fully understand them and willingly give their permission, then that permission must be separated from T&C documents, must be short (say fewer than 40 words long) and must be written in plain English. Better yet, ban it entirely unless the customer phones in and requests it on a recorded line.

This all said, I think few Americans have fully absorbed how much of their most intimate data is already out there, for sale to any advertiser. If the data is retained somewhere, it can be stolen. Therefore, the opt-in would have to remind consumers that agreeing to this data being retained might also make it available to identity thieves and terrorists.

Will these new FCC rules make even an incremental improvement in privacy? To be honest, I doubt it. But that’s not the biggest problem here. With the FCC’s blessing to bury opt-out inside lengthy T&C documents and hide them behind a checkmark, many ISPs are going to be emboldened to push the privacy limit even further. Yes, this incremental move could end up making much worse the problem the FCC ostensibly was trying to solve.

 

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