Paying for Privacy? Comcast Wants Privacy as a Luxury

Earlier this month, there was quite a stir when Comcast stated they should be allowed to charge broadband users a higher price if they wish to protect their privacy. This move was not unprecedented, as AT&T already charges users more if they opt out of the so-called “snoopvertising” on their U-Verse broadband service. Snoopvertising refers to the practice of collecting data on user habits and then selling this data to advertisers to target ads.

Comcast recently submitted a filing to the FCC asserting that it’s “perfectly acceptable” to charge customers more to opt out of their “snoopvertisng” practices. Comcast’s argument is centered around the idea that protecting your privacy is an option, a paid luxury, as opposed to something everyone should receive. They argue this pay for privacy model allows them to keep broadband rates lower for everyone, and is an acceptable practice.

Many consumers and advocacy groups speaking out against Comcast’s filing, defending the right to privacy for everyone regardless of the price paid for services. They argue that Comcast’s proposed structure would have an unfair impact for those unable to afford the premium prices. Additionally, concern has been expressed over opt-in privacy settings that are hidden and not easily accessible to consumers.

The FCC has not officially weighted in on the filing yet, but Chairman Tom Wheeler stated “I would hope that privacy doesn’t become a luxury item,” indicating he doesn’t agree with a pay for privacy model. A few months ago, the FCC’s Open Internet Order was upheld in a court ruling, a decision that represented a “major victory” advocates of the Open Internet and equal Internet access for all.

At Golden Frog, we believe everyone has the right to access a private and open Internet. We are strongly in favor of the right to privacy, and transparency for consumers in understanding, accessing and enabling privacy measures online. You can learn more in our Vision Paper.