FCC to Consider Applying Privacy Rules To Data Collected on Wireless Devices

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By Paul Barbagallo

 

The Federal Communications Commission will vote at its June 27 meeting on whether to require wireless carriers to adhere to the agency's existing Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) rules, which govern how traditional telephone companies and providers of internet-based phone services treat their customers' personal data, an FCC official told BNA June 5 on background.

The declaratory ruling would make it clear that when a carrier collects a customer's personal information, such as a number dialed, the length of a call, and the location of where a call is placed or received, that company may use or disclose it only as permitted by the commission's CPNI rules.

Under the ruling, the carrier would also have to take “reasonable precautions” to prevent unauthorized disclosure of such information, including by third-party marketers, according to the FCC official. When a wireless carrier collected such information about customers' use of their devices using pre-installed applications, the ruling would require them to protect that information, the official said.

“Millions of wireless consumers must have confidence that personal information about calls will remain secure even if that information is stored on a mobile device,” acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said in a June 5 statement. “This ruling makes clear that wireless carriers who direct or cause information to be stored in this way have a responsibility to provide safeguards, and I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this effort.”

Clyburn, who assumed the top FCC job on an interim basis when FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stepped down (12 PVLR 781, 5/6/13), has been a longtime proponent of wireless consumer protection.

In recent filings with the commission, wireless carriers have urged the FCC to encourage voluntary, industry-driven guidelines, rather than mandatory rules.

The ruling, if adopted, would only apply to wireless carriers, not operating systems run by companies such as Google Inc. or Apple Inc.