Cable & Online Privacy

| April 30, 2018 | |

Online privacy concerns have been at the forefront of public discussion lately, and consumers are right to be concerned about who they entrust with their personal data while online, and what happens to that information. Cable companies – leading providers of broadband – already are subject to strict federal regulations on what they can do with your data. In addition, the cable industry has stated it supports protecting privacy and data across the internet with strategies that provide strong, consistent standards and are applied equally to different technologies, from internet providers to social networks.

Video Advertising Bureau President and CEO Sean Cunningham recently called the data collected by multichannel video programming distributors, including cable, “among the most well-protected data sets in American business.”

Consumers should know that personal information collected by cable companies is subject to privacy regulations and oversight under the Cable Act, such as prohibitions on disclosure without prior consent from the customer. In addition, internet service providers – including cable companies – each have a privacy policy that offers consumers choice as to how their data is used. Those broadband privacy policies reflect the key principles of transparency, choice and security that reflect the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy framework.

In January, internet service providers reiterated their commitment to the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer privacy protections, including not selling their customers’ “sensitive” information without the affirmative, opt-in consent of their subscribers.

Learn more about internet service providers and online privacy in NCTA – The Internet & Television Association’s “Myth vs. Reality on ISP Privacy Claims: Clearing up misconceptions about online privacy.”

Chris Pizzurro, head of business development, sales and marketing for advertising technology firm Canoe Ventures, recently told Cable Fax, “In fact, sometimes cable gets knocked for not being progressive or innovative enough in bringing products to market, and in some of those instances, the reason is because it potentially could harm consumer protections, so cable does not implement until the safeguards are in place.”

One reason cable is concerned about online privacy and safety – cable is the leading broadband provider, with about two-thirds of all high-speed internet subscribers. And more Americans than ever are on the internet:

Leaders in the cable industry have been outspoken recently about their thoughts on what the next steps should be to protect consumers’ data and privacy while online.

Charter Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tom Rutledge recently published the blog post “Charter Urges Congress to Pass Legislation Protecting Privacy Everywhere on the Internet.” In the blog, Rutledge advocates for several protections, including a “uniform law that provides greater privacy and data security protections and applies the same standard to everybody in the Internet ecosystem, including us.”

He concludes:

“Recent revelations have led to a long-overdue public conversation about what happens to our data online and the vulnerabilities that could develop. Charter is ready to work with Members of Congress, industry partners, consumer groups and other stakeholders to pass a law that makes people feel more safe and confident taking advantage of all that the Internet has to offer.”

NCTA – The Internet & Television Association also has stated industry support of similar protective proposals. President and CEO Michael Powell recently wrote:

“A technology-neutral, federal framework of online consumer protection is a first step to restoring America’s faith in our digital future. When consumers go online, they shouldn’t have to think about what state they are in, and they shouldn’t need an engineering or law degree to understand what privacy requirements apply to different online services and what kind of entity may be engaged in blocking or throttling. They want to know that their personal data is protected, that their choices as consumers are respected, and that practices resulting in unfair discrimination or otherwise violating the spirit of internet openness will be punished swiftly.”

As the conversation continues, what steps can consumers take to protect themselves while online? The Federal Trade Commission offers an extensive list, including these simple suggestions:

  • On your internet browser, delete cookies or limit the kinds of cookies that can be placed on your computer.
  • Turn on the “private browsing” setting on your internet browser to keep your web activities hidden from other people who use the same computer.
  • Limit tracking in or across mobile apps by controlling identifiers that allow ad targeting or collect your location information.
  • Use Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps to shield the information on your mobile devices when on a public network.
  • Avoid oversharing of personal information in posts you make on your social networks.
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