Today Ars Technica published as an op-ed my response to this article by Timothy B. Lee, who had addressed my initial post about the deregulatory implications of Google Fiber. My op-ed is available here, Mr. Lee’s article is available here, and my initial post is available here.
“Consumers should be aware that “government transparency” also applies to the data consumers voluntarily provide to the FCC when they participate in a government-run broadband measurement program. . . . The most egregious aspect of these broadband measurement programs, however, is that the FCC kept the public in the dark for more than a year by failing to disclose that its mobile testing apps were collecting user locations (by latitude and longitude) and unique handset identification numbers that the FCC’s contractors can make available to the public.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced a new program to measure mobile broadband performance in the United States. The FCC believes it is “difficult” for consumers to get detailed information about their mobile broadband performance, and that “transparency on broadband speeds drives improvement in broadband speeds.” The FCC does not, however, limit transparency to broadband speeds. Consumers should be aware that “government transparency” also applies to the data consumers voluntarily provide to the FCC when they participate in a government-run broadband measurement program. Information collected by the FCC about individual consumers may be “routinely disclosed” to other federal agencies, states, or local agencies that are investigating or prosecuting a civil or criminal violation. Some personal information, including individual IP address, mobile handset location data, and unique handset identification numbers, may be released to the public.
This blog post describes the FCC’s broadband measurement programs and highlights the personal data that may be disclosed about those who participate in them.
The findings and recommendations of the PCAST described above are an obvious attempt by the Administration to usurp Congressional authority and muscle it out of its constitutional jurisdiction over commercial spectrum use. And one would expect that some in Congress would be downright angry that the Chairman of the FCC, an independent agency, is supporting a Presidential power grab.