Letter to the Editor: Jonathan Spalter, USTelecom

Individual state efforts that deviate from a strong, consistent federal privacy framework do not fit with how consumers traverse the global internet and are more likely to harm consumers and internet innovation than help. A story, “Lawmakers introduce bill to push back against new federal law on internet privacy,” that recently ran in your paper included comments that repeated common misconceptions of how consumers’ information is protected online.

  • Consumers’ most sensitive data – financial and health records, Social Security numbers – are protected under existing laws and ISPs cannot share or sell it. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule has been in place since the days of dial-up and it continues to keep kids’ data safe.
  • ISP’s aren’t selling anyone’s individual browsing history or putting it online. That would violate existing privacy rules, which remain in effect.
  • Major ISPs agreed in January to abide by the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy rules no matter what happened with the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules. That includes requiring consumers to opt-in before any sensitive information is shared for marketing purposes.
  • Consumers who may not want their non-sensitive information, like their browser history, aggregated and shared with advertisers, are still free to opt out of that sharing. But that sharing is one reason why so many online sites, social networks and services are free. Notably, ISPs are relatively small players in the $83 billion digital ad market.

Congress did not vote down consumer privacy protections. It cleared the way for the FCC and FTC to work together on a more comprehensive and consistent approach that will protect all consumers online equally. That’s a better path forward than a patchwork of state privacy regulations that could cause unintended consequences and prevent Washington state residents  from enjoying free ad-support sites and services online.

Jonathan Spalter is President and CEO of USTelecom.

Amy Schatz
Vice President, Media Affairs
Work: (202) 326-7346