Consent and Notice are Key to Protecting Privacy Online
By Rachel Welch, Senior Vice President Policy and External Affairs
At today’s FTC hearing on Competition and Consumer Protection, I had the opportunity to speak about the importance of establishing a strong legal framework to protect consumers’ privacy online. I reiterated Charter’s support for a national policy framework that gives consumers better tools to control and protect their personal information. As the leading consumer protection agency, the FTC has an important voice in the ongoing policy debate about online privacy and we welcomed the opportunity to be a part of its process to identify solutions that enhance consumer privacy protections across the internet.
During the panel, I explained that a new national framework should be based on the principles of transparency and consumer control. All companies doing business online would be required to tell consumers about their privacy practices and obtain their affirmative consent before using or sharing consumers’ data with limited exceptions (such as using information needed to render the service requested by consumer). Such “opt-in” consent would empower consumers to control how and when their personal data is used, give them comfort that their information is not being misused, and at the same time allow companies to innovate and provide high-quality services.
Charter has long advocated for a new federal privacy framework that is based on an opt-in approach. While we recognize that notice and consent are not the only critical elements of a privacy framework, consumers should have an integral and direct role in how their personal information is (or is not) used. Without it, consumers will lose confidence in their online experience and not trust that the law is protecting their personal information regardless of who has access to it. That is not good for consumers, and ultimately it is not good for businesses, especially an ISP like Charter whose business is focused on delivering broadband services.
Some have suggested that the principle of consumer notice and consent is outdated. While Charter is open to a wide-range of different approaches to protecting consumer privacy and is prepared to work with policymakers, consumer groups, academic experts and other industry stakeholders to consider a range of alternatives, we believe that any privacy framework should empower consumers to control how their online personal data is used and shared by building on and strengthening notice and consent, not replacing it.
We thank the FTC for the opportunity to participate in the discussion around notice and consent that gets to the core of establishing a federal framework that will better empower and protect consumers.