In the Matter of Implementation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996

Petition of EPIC for Rulemaking to Enhance Security & Authentication Standards for Access to Customer Proprietary Network Information

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In this proceeding, EPIC and 17 other civil liberties and consumer protection groups filed comments with the FCC urging it to protect the privacy of telephone customers by adopting an opt-in policy towards use of customer information by telecommunications carriers.

The FCC's request for public comments relates to the use by telecommunications carriers of "customer proprietary network information" (CPNI), which includes the name, telephone number, call information and services subscribed to by a telephone customer. In 1998, the FCC promulgated its initial rule regarding CPNI, which required telecommunication carriers to obtain explicit customer approval (opt-in) before using such information in any manner inconsistent with provision of services (for example, building detailed profiles based on personal information obtained through private telephone calls). An alternative approach is opt-out, which enables the carrier to use CPNI until a customer informs it otherwise. The FCC rejected an opt-out approach as insufficiently protective of customer privacy, because opting-out places the burden on the customer, many of whom are wholly unaware of their right to opt-out.

On 04-30-02, EPIC met with representatives of the FCC regarding the pending CPNI rulemaking. Upon the FCC’s request, EPIC provided supplemental materials strengthening the argument that (1) opt-out has failed to protect consumer privacy when implemented in similar regimes, specifically Gramm-Leach-Bliley, and (2) opt-out permits aggrandized information sharing, which can lead to real harms (such as identity theft) to consumers. The FCC released the new CPNI rulemaking on July 16. The Order provides for opt-in—or express consent—customer approval for carriers' release of customer information to third parties, but permits opt-out consent for release of information to affiliated parties and that the Commission will not block or preempt state efforts to further protect CPNI.

This is EPIC'S complaint.

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Reference Info:Pleadings | Federal, D.C. Circuit, Federal Admin Agencies | United States


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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