Comcast is deliberating on asking customer to pay for privacy. Comcast defended a pay-for-privacy pricing structure in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission. AT&T already offer a service called “Internet Preferences” that provides lower monthly rates to customers in Austin, Texas and Kansas City who allow AT&T to track their web history and other behavioral data that can then be used by advertisers. Users who opt-out of “Internet Preferences,” which DSLReports calls a “deep packet inspection program that tracks your browsing behavior around the internet—down to the second,” face a $30 premium on their monthly bill.
And now, Comcast wants their customers to pay for privacy or actually to get discounts for giving away their privacy.
In a letter dated Aug. 1 and addressed to the secretary of the FCC, Comcast writes: “We also urged that the Commission allow business models offering discounts or other value to consumers in exchange for allowing ISPs to use their data. As Comcast and others have argued, the FCC has no authority to prohibit or limit these types of programs. Moreover, such a prohibition would harm consumers by, among other things, depriving them of lower-priced offerings, and as FTC Commissioner Ohlhausen points out, ‘such a ban may prohibit ad-supported broadband services and thereby eliminate a way to increase broadband adoption.’”
The letter also noted Comcast supports consumers’ ability to “a sensitivity-based approach to consent,” meaning the company’s broadband users would be required to opt-in to share information like their social security number. Non-sensitive information, however, “would be subject to opt-out consent in most instances and implied consent for an ISP to market its products and services to its customers.”
Certain online services, like Google and Facebook, already collect personal data. Some consumer groups say giving the same access to internet service providers gives them an exceptional amount of access to their customers’ data.
How much is our privacy worth? How much should we pay for privacy?
That’s the question that Comcast customers may soon face if the broadband giant decides to start offering discounts in exchange for more intrusive access to user data.
Comcast urged the FCC not to ban internet service providers from offering cheaper service plans for those customers willing to accept increased monitoring of their web browsing habits. They also state that the FCC has no authority to prohibit this.
In the legal words, “A bargained-for exchange of information for service is a perfectly acceptable and widely used model throughout the US economy, including the internet ecosystem, and is consistent with decades of legal precedent and policy goals related to consumer protection and privacy,” the cable giant added.
Comcast’s filing was made in response to the FCC’s ongoing broadband privacy rule-making process. The agency is weighing tough new broadband privacy guidelines, based on its recently-upheld authority to regulate internet service providers as “common carriers” under Title II of the Communications Act.
The FCC indicated before that it was considering banning the kind of practice that Comcast defended. The aim of the agency’s process is to clearly delineate “opt-in” and “opt-out” standards for establishing user intent to track their web browsing habits.
Comcast’s defense of the pay-for-privacy model comes as the FCC is deciding on new privacy rules for Internet services providers. Right now, Ars Technica reports, the FCC is proposing regulations that would make Comcast and its competitors get permission from users before their private information is accessed.
ISPs could only share a subscriber’s Internet usage habits with advertising companies or other third parties if the subscriber opts in to such usage, and they would not be able to serve targeted ads to customers based on their Web browsing habits without first obtaining opt-in consent.
This article was first published on PricingDataPlans.