Last April, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge called for a stronger legal framework to protect consumers’ privacy online explaining it is both the right thing to do and important for the continued growth of the Internet economy. With this week’s hearings in Congress, the time is right for policymakers to focus on what should be included in federal legislation.
We agree with the wide range of policymakers, consumer advocates and industry stakeholders who have called for parity and national uniformity. In order to have confidence in their online activities, consumers need to trust that the law gives them the same privacy and security protections regardless of which Internet entity (e.g., search engine, social media site, ISP, advertising company, data broker, etc.) has access to their data or where they go on the Internet. National uniformity is also critical so that consumers know that privacy protections do not depend on where they live, work or travel.
While parity and uniformity are necessary components of a federal law, on their own, they are not enough. Policymakers evaluating any legislative proposal need to ask the very basic question of whether it would actually give consumers better tools to control their information online.
Charter has consistently called for a new, national privacy framework based on an opt-in approach. This means companies should be required to obtain consumers’ affirmative consent before collecting and using their data with very few exceptions (such as being necessary to render the service). Such “opt-in” consent would empower consumers to control how their personal data is used and shared, while at the same time allowing companies to innovate and provide the best service to consumers.
We stand ready to work with policymakers on both sides of the aisle and other interested stakeholders to produce a national framework that returns meaningful control over their personal information to consumers. By doing so, consumers, companies like ours, and the Internet economy stand to benefit.