Broadband Privacy Rules Approved Despite Industry Pushback

Federal regulators have approved new broadband privacy rules that make internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon ask customers' permission before using or sharing much of their data, potentially making it more difficult for them to grow advertising businesses.

Under the measure, for example, a broadband provider has to ask a customer's permission before it can tell an advertiser exactly where that customer is by tracking her phone and what interests she has gleaned from the websites she's visited on it and the apps she's used.

For some information that's not considered as private, like names and addresses, there's a more lenient approach. Customers should assume that broadband providers can use that information, but they can "opt-out" of letting them do so.

The Federal Communications Commission's measure was scaled back from an earlier proposal, but was still criticized by the advertising, telecommunications and cable industries.

Cable and phone companies want to increase revenue from ad businesses of their own ��" AT&T has said increasing advertising tailored to customers' preferences is one of its goals with its $85.4 billion purchase of HBO, CNN and TBS owner Time Warner; Verizon has bought AOL and agreed to buy Yahoo in order to build up a digital-ad business.

But the new rules could make doing that more difficult. Companies and industry groups say it's confusing and unfair that the regulations are stricter than the Federal Trade Commission standards that digital-advertising behemoths such as Google and Facebook operate under. The FCC does not regulate such web companies.

FCC officials approved the rules on a 3-2 vote Thursday, its latest contentious measure to pass on party lines.

"It is the consumer's information. How it is to be used should be the consumers' choice, not the choice of some corporate algorithm," said Tom Wheeler, the Democratic chairman of the FCC who has pushed for...

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