FCC Official Says Renewed Privacy Interest Is Result of Mobile Devices, Demand for Data

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By Katie W. Johnson

March 9 — Although the Federal Communications Commission “has long had a strong privacy regime,” the commission's renewed or heightened interest in privacy is a result of several factors, Travis LeBlanc, FCC chief of enforcement, said March 6 as a panelist at the International Association of Privacy Professionals Global Privacy Summit 2015.

In October 2014, the FCC announced its plans to fine two phone companies, TerraCom Inc. and YourTel America Inc., a combined $10 million for failing to protect their customers' personal data online. It was the commission's first data security case and its largest privacy action, the commission said at the time.

Just one month earlier, the FCC announced that Verizon Communications Inc. had agreed to pay $7.4 million to resolve charges that it failed to notify new wireline customers that they could opt out of letting the company use their personal information to market them services.

LeBlanc said that such enforcement actions are due to the rise in the number of mobile devices, the increasing convergence of phone and cable providers and a surge in the demand for data.

Future Focus on Open Internet

One expected trend for the coming year is more collaboration and cooperation between the FCC and other federal agencies, states and international bodies, LeBlanc said.

For example, he said, the FCC recently joined the Global Privacy Enforcement Network.

The FCC will also likely contemplate the impact of the FCC's recent net neutrality vote on privacy, LeBlanc said.

The FCC Feb. 26 approved new Open Internet rules reclassifying broadband Internet services—including wireless broadband—as telecommunications services under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, granting the federal agency significantly more regulatory authority over Internet service providers.

LeBlanc said he expects rulemaking around Section 222 of the Communications Act, which addresses the confidentiality of customer proprietary network information (CPNI), concerning how the CPNI provisions apply to Internet service providers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Katie W. Johnson in Washington at kjohnson@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Barbara Yuill at byuill@bna.com