Seth Martin
  
Techdirt.Techdirt. wrote the following post Tue, 04 Apr 2017 08:23:00 -0500

AT&T, Comcast & Verizon Pretend They Didn't Just Pay Congress To Sell You Out On Privacy

Large ISPs like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast spent a significant part of Friday trying to convince the press and public that they didn't just screw consumers over on privacy (if you've been napping: they did). With the vote on killing FCC broadband privacy protections barely in the books, ISP lobbyists and lawyers penned a number of editorials and blog posts breathlessly professing their tireless dedication to privacy, and insisting that worries about the rules' repeal are little more than "misinformation."

All of these posts, in lock step, tried to effectively make three key arguments: that the FTC will rush in to protect consumers in the wake of the FCC rules being repealed (not happening), ISPs don't really collect much data on you anyway (patently untrue), and that ISPs' lengthy, existing privacy policies and history of consumer respect mean consumers have nothing to worry about (feel free to pause here and laugh).

For more than a decade, large ISPs have used deep-packet inspection, search engine redirection and clickstream data collection to build detailed user profiles, and their longstanding refusal to candidly talk about many of these programs should make their actual dedication to user privacy abundantly clear. Yet over at Comcast, Deputy General Counsel & Chief Privacy Officer Gerard Lewis spent some time complaining that consumer privacy concerns are little more than "misleading talk" and "misinformation and inaccurate statements":

"There has been a lot of misleading talk about how the congressional action this week to overturn the regulatory overreach of the prior FCC will now permit us to sell sensitive customer data without customers’ knowledge or consent. This is just not true. In fact, we have committed not to share our customers’ sensitive information (such as banking, children’s, and health information), unless we first obtain their affirmative, opt-in consent."

So one, the "commitment" Comcast links to in this paragraph is little more than a cross-industry, toothless and voluntary self-regulatory regime that means just a fraction more than nothing at all. And while Comcast insists it doesn't sell its broadband customers' "individual web browsing history" (yet), they do still collect an ocean of other data for use in targeted ads, and there's really little stopping them from using your browsing history in this same way down the road -- it may not be "selling" your data, but it is using it to let advertisers target you. Comcast proceeds to say it's updating its privacy policy in the wake of the changes -- as if such an action (since these policies are drafted entirely to protect the ISP, not the consumer) means anything at all.

Like Comcast, Verizon's blog post on the subject amusingly acts as if the company's privacy policy actually protects you, not Verizon:

"Verizon is fully committed to the privacy of our customers. We value the trust our customers have in us so protecting the privacy of customer information is a core priority for us. Verizon’s privacy policy clearly lays out what we do and don’t do as well as the choices customers can make."

Feel better? That's the same company, we'll note, that was caught covertly modifying user data packets to track users around the internet regardless of any other data collected. That program was in place for two years before security researchers even noticed it existed. It took another six months of public shaming before the company even provided the option for consumers to opt out. Verizon's own recent history makes it clear its respect for consumer privacy is skin deep. And again, there's nothing really stopping Verizon from expanding this data collection and sales down the road, and burying it on page 117 of its privacy policy.

AT&T was a bit more verbose in a post over at the AT&T policy blog, where again it trots out this idea that existing FTC oversight is somehow good enough:

"The reality is that the FCC’s new broadband privacy rules had not yet even taken effect. And no one is saying there shouldn’t be any rules. Supporters of this action all agree that the rescinded FCC rules should be replaced by a return to the long-standing Federal Trade Commission approach. But in today’s overheated political dialogue, it is not surprising that some folks are ignoring the facts."

So again, the FTC doesn't really have much authority over broadband, and AT&T forgets to mention that its lawyers have found ways to wiggle around what little authority the agency does have via common carrier exemptions. And while AT&T insists that "no one is saying there shouldn't be any rules," its lobbyists are working tirelessly to accomplish precisely that by gutting both FTC and FCC oversight of the telecom sector. Not partially. Entirely. Title II, net neutrality, privacy -- AT&T wants it all gone. Its pretense to the contrary is laughable.

Like the other two providers, AT&T trots out this idea that the FCC's rules weren't fair because they didn't also apply to "edge" companies like Facebook or Google (which actually are more fully regulated by the FTC). That's a flimsy point also pushed by an AT&T and US Telecom Op/Ed over at Axios, where the lobbying group's CEO Jonathan Spalter tries to argue that consumers shouldn't worry about ISPs, because their data is also being hoovered up further down the supply chain:

"Your browser history is already being aggregated and sold to advertising networks—by virtually every site you visit on the internet. Consumers' browsing history is bought and sold across massive online advertising networks every day. This is the reason so many popular online destinations and services are "free." And, it's why the ads you see on your favorite sites—large and small—always seem so relevant to what you've recently been shopping for online. Of note, internet service providers are relative bit players in the $83 billion digital ad market, which made singling them out for heavier regulations so suspect."

Again, this quite intentionally ignores the fact that whereas you can choose to not use Facebook or Gmail, a lack of competition means you're stuck with your broadband provider. As such, arguing that "everybody else is busy collecting your data" isn't much of an argument, especially when "everybody else" is having their behaviors checked by competitive pressure to offer a better product. As well-respected security expert Bruce Schneier points out in a blog post, these companies desperately want you to ignore this one, central, undeniable truth:

"When markets work well, different companies compete on price and features, and society collectively rewards better products by purchasing them. This mechanism fails if there is no competition, or if rival companies choose not to compete on a particular feature. It fails when customers are unable to switch to competitors. And it fails when what companies do remains secret.

Unlike service providers like Google and Facebook, telecom companies are infrastructure that requires government involvement and regulation. The practical impossibility of consumers learning the extent of surveillance by their Internet service providers, combined with the difficulty of switching them, means that the decision about whether to be spied on should be with the consumer and not a telecom giant. That this new bill reverses that is both wrong and harmful."

This lack of competition didn't just magically happen. As in other sectors driven by legacy turf protectors, the same ISP lobbyists that just gutted the FCC's privacy rules have a long and proud history of dismantling competitive threats at every conceivable opportunity, then paying legislators to look the other way. That includes pushing for protectionist state laws preventing towns and cities from doing much of anything about it. It's not clear who these ISPs thought they were speaking to in these editorials, but it's certainly not to folks that have actually paid attention to their behavior over the last fifteen years.

The EFF, meanwhile, concisely calls these ISPs' sudden and breathless dedication to privacy nonsense:

"There is a lot to say about the nonsense they've produced here," said Ernesto Falcon, legislative counsel at EFF. "There is little reason to believe they will not start using personal data they've been legally barred from using and selling to bidders without our consent now. The law will soon be tilted in their favor to do it."

Gosh, who to believe? Actual experts on subjects like security or privacy, or one of the more dishonest and anti-competitive business sectors in American industry? All told, you can expect these ISPs to remain on their best behavior for a short while for appearances' sake (and because AT&T wants its Time Warner merger approved) -- but it's not going to be long before they rush to abuse the lack of oversight their campaign contributions just successfully created. Anybody believing otherwise simply hasn't been paying attention to the laundry list of idiotic ISP actions that drove the FCC to try and pass the now-dismantled rules in the first place.

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#Privacy #Net Neutrality #Communications #FCC #FTC #ATT #Comcast #Verizon #Lobbying #Corporatism #Politics @LibertyPod+ @Laissez-Faire Capitalism+ @Gadget Gurus+

Seth Martin
  
Techdirt.Techdirt. wrote the following post Wed, 05 Apr 2017 08:24:00 -0500

Comcast Paid Civil Rights Groups To Support Killing Broadband Privacy Rules

For years, one of the greasier lobbying and PR tactics by the telecom industry has been the use of minority groups to parrot awful policy positions. Historically, such groups are happy to take financing from a company like Comcast, in exchange for repeating whatever talking point memos are thrust in their general direction, even if the policy being supported may dramatically hurt their constituents. This strategy has played a starring role in supporting anti-consumer mega-mergers, killing attempts to make the cable box market more competitive, and efforts to eliminate net neutrality.

The goal is to provide an artificial wave of "support" for bad policies, used to then justify bad policy votes. And despite this being something the press has highlighted for the better part of several decades, the practice continues to work wonders. Hell, pretending to serve minority communities while effectively undermining them with bad internet policy is part of the reason Comcast now calls top lobbyist David Cohen the company's Chief Diversity Officer (something the folks at Comcast hate when I point it out, by the way).

Last week, we noted how Congress voted to kill relatively modest but necessary FCC privacy protections. You'd be hard pressed to find a single, financially-objective group or person that supports such a move. Even Donald Trump's most obnoxious supporters were relatively disgusted by the vote. Yet The Intercept notes that groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens and the OCA (Asian Pacific American Advocates) breathlessly urged the FCC to kill the rules, arguing that snoopvertising and data collection would be a great boon to low income families:

"The League of United Latin American Citizens and OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, two self-described civil rights organizations, told the FCC that “many consumers, especially households with limited incomes, appreciate receiving relevant advertising that is keyed to their interests and provides them with discounts on the products and services they use."

Of course, folks like Senator Ted Cruz then used this entirely-farmed support to insist there were "strenuous objections from throughout the internet community" at the creation of the rules, which simply wasn't true. Most people understood that the rules were a direct response to some reckless and irresponsible privacy practices at major ISPs -- ranging from charging consumers more to keep their data private, or using customer credit data to provide even worse customer support than they usually do. Yes, what consumer (minority or otherwise) doesn't want to pay significantly more money for absolutely no coherent reason?

It took only a little bit of digging for The Intercept to highlight what the real motivation for this support of anti-consumer policies was:

"OCA has long relied on telecom industry cash. Verizon and Comcast are listed as business advisory council members to OCA, and provide funding along with “corporate guidance to the organization.” Last year, both companies sponsored the OCA annual gala.

AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and Verizon serve as part of the LULAC “corporate alliance,” providing “advice and assistance” to the group. Comcast gave $240,000 to LULAC between 2004 and 2012.

When a reporter asks these groups why they're supporting internet policies that run in stark contrast to their constituents, you'll usually be met with either breathless indignance at the idea that these groups are being used as marionettes, or no comment whatsoever (which was the case in the Intercept's latest report). This kind of co-opting still somehow doesn't get much attention in the technology press or policy circles, so it continues to work wonders. And it will continue to work wonders as the administration shifts its gaze from gutting privacy protections to killing net neutrality.

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#Privacy #Net Neutrality #Communications #Comcast #FCC #Lobbying #LULAC #Politics @LibertyPod+ @Gadget Gurus+ @Laissez-Faire Capitalism+
Seth Martin
  
Yet this happens:
US internet providers pledge to not sell customer data after controversial rule change

The three major US Internet Service Providers (ISPs) Comcast Corp, Verizon Communications Inc, and AT&T Inc have pledged to protect the private data of US citizens in solidarity against the latest internet bill passed by Congress.

Seth Martin
  last edited: Sat, 14 Jan 2017 09:55:00 -0600  
Since government is creating an environment where only some entities can afford to play, government must also protect the market from their abuse of power.

MotherboardMotherboard wrote the following post Sat, 14 Jan 2017 08:00:00 -0600

In Final Speech, FCC Chief Tom Wheeler Warns GOP Not to Kill Net Neutrality

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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler delivered an impassioned defense of US net neutrality protections on Friday, one week before Republicans who have vowed to roll back the policy are set to take control of the agency.

In his final public speech as the nation’s top telecom regulator, Wheeler warned that Republican efforts to weaken FCC rules ensuring that all internet content is treated equally will harm consumers, stifle online innovation, and threaten broadband industry competition.

“The open internet is the law of the land,” Wheeler declared during a speech at the DC offices of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. “Tampering with the rules means taking away protections consumers and the online world enjoy today.”

Open internet advocates say strong net neutrality safeguards are needed to prevent internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon from creating online fast lanes for their own content or discriminating against rival services. The telecom giants, and their Republican allies in Congress, accuse the FCC of overstepping its authority and shackling their business models.

Wheeler’s departure from the FCC on January 20, President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration day, will leave the agency in the hands of Republican officials who have made no secret of their intention to dismantle the FCC’s policy. That would be a grave mistake, Wheeler said.

“To take those protections away at the request of a handful of ISPs threatens any innovation that requires connectedness and with it the productivity gains, job creation, and international competitiveness required for America’s economic growth,” Wheeler said. "It is time to keep moving forward. This is not the time to retreat and take things away.”
“Vigilance to protect that which Americans now enjoy must be our watchword.”

The FCC’s policy safeguarding net neutrality is the centerpiece of an ambitious pro-consumer agenda advanced by Wheeler over the last three years. Open internet advocates say that without net neutrality, hugely popular online video and communications services like Netflix and Skype could have been snuffed out by ISPs in favor of their own rival offerings.

“Those who build and operate networks have both the incentive and the ability to use the power of the network to benefit themselves even if doing so harms their own customers and the greater public interest,” Wheeler said. “Access to the network is what the new economy is built on, and it must not be taken away.”



FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's Final Public Address
by The Aspen Institute on YouTube

Unfortunately for open internet advocates, the prospects for the FCC’s net neutrality policy are bleak under Trump’s administration. The president-elect’s FCC transition team is led by right-wing ideologues who are expected to recommend a new anti-net neutrality chairman to replace Wheeler. And Trump himself has taken to Twitter to disparage the FCC’s policy.

In his speech, Wheeler warned Republicans soon to be in control of the FCC that reversing the agency's net neutrality policy is “not a slam dunk” because of the “high hurdle, imposed by the Administrative Procedure Act, of a fact-based showing that so much has changed in just two short years that a reversal is justified.”

Meanwhile, in Congress, Republicans are already scheming to kneecap the FCC’s policy. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the Tennessee Republican who was recently tapped by the GOP to be the new chairman of the House telecom subcommittee, has described net neutrality as a “socialistic” Obama plot to take over the internet.

Blackburn, who has received mountains of campaign cash from the telecom industry since first being elected in 2002, has been trying to kill net neutrality for years. In the coming months, she will finally get her chance, possibly by working with other lawmakers to pass new legislation that claims to protect net neutrality, while actually gutting the FCC’s policy.

Outgoing FCC Chairman Wheeler, who has written books about the Civil War, concluded his remarks by quoting from Abraham Lincoln’s famous first inaugural address: “While the people retain their virtue, and vigilance, no administration … can very seriously injure the government, in the short space of four years.”

“The vigilance Lincoln spoke of means we must be alert to name-only, so-called net neutrality policies that actually retreat from the protections that exist today,” Wheeler said. “Vigilance to protect that which Americans now enjoy must be our watchword.”


#Net Neutrality #Internet #FCC #Communications #Politics @Gadget Guru+ @LibertyPod+ @Laissez-Faire Capitalism+

Seth Martin
  last edited: Thu, 06 Oct 2016 18:29:43 -0500  
Facebook is getting the US government on its side before trying to launch its limited internet services in the US.

Facebook is talking to the White House about giving you ‘free’ Internet. Here’s why that may be controversial.

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The company has spent the past half-year in conversations with officials.

Facebook has been in talks for months with U.S. government officials and wireless carriers with an eye toward unveiling an American version of an app that has caused controversy abroad, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

The social media giant is trying to determine how to roll out its program, known as Free Basics, in the United States without triggering the regulatory scrutiny that effectively killed a version of the app in India earlier this year.


#Facebook #Free Basics #FreeBasics #Internet #Corporatism #Crony Capitalism #Capitalism #Politics #Net Neutrality #NetNeutrality #Communications #Social Networking #Zero-Rating @LibertyPod+  @Laissez-Faire Capitalism+  @Gadget Guru+
prep
 from Diaspora
Why thank you Marshall.

Hopefully we can trade notes on social media for a while before our country falls fully into a China clone.
Marshall Sutherland
  
The debt bubble will burst and crash on all their plans before they get that far. (See? I can be an optimist!)
Theaitetos
 from Diaspora
I really wonder why everyone is into this #netneutrality thing. All the nerds rage against the government censoring, controlling, and sifting through the internet, but then they come and beg in the name of net neutrality for a big government agency to install a complete state control system for the internet.