Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Did you know that pretty much everything you do on your smartphone, feature phone or cellphone is logged at your carrier? Did you also know that this information is routinely sold to advertisers without your consent? Well, the FCC is saying enough is enough.

The Hill reports that the FCC plans to hold a vote in late June on wireless carrier regulations that would require said carriers to protect customer privacy. What would those protections entail? Simply put, wireless carriers would not be able to share your information with third parties unless you give them your permission to do so.

Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn says the vote is all about protecting private mobile data from advertisers and their ilk:

“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. 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.”

As you can imagine, wireless carriers don’t like the idea of mandatory regulations. They argue that the FCC should just present voluntary guidelines, and then stay out of their business. They even go so far as to say that mandatory regulations “would actually harm consumers by hamstringing providers in their ability to improve service quality, especially in these times of wireless spectrum capacity constraints.”

In their defense, there is some truth in that statement. The software carriers use to collect all your personal information is also used to collect data on network performance. It does play a rather significant role in maintaining network coverage in times of heavy congestion.

Still, rules are better than no rules. Besides, the proposed FCC regulations fall in line with what some carriers already do. Verizon asks for its customers’ permission to sell their mobile data to advertisers in exchange for coupons. Some may not think that’s a fair deal, but that’s what the FCC hopes to make a standard practice. It just wants to require all carriers to simply ask permission first. Is that a hard thing to do?


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