Your Internet privacy shouldn’t be a ‘luxury item,’ FCC Chairman Wheeler says

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Should your online privacy depend on whether you've paid your Internet provider a little extra this month? That's one of the key policy questions concerning the future of the Web. And the nation's top telecom and broadband regulator, Tom Wheeler, signaled that he's not a fan of the idea.

Talking to reporters, the head of the Federal Communications Commission implied that the Internet risks becoming divided into privacy haves and have-nots, if companies such as AT&T and Comcast can dangle discounts in front of consumers in exchange for slurping up their search and browsing histories for advertising purposes. "I would hope that privacy doesn't become a luxury item," Chairman Wheeler said. The FCC is waist-deep in crafting a set of privacy regulations for Internet service providers (ISPs). Some, such as Comcast, have met with the FCC to ask that it not restrict the ability of ISPs to tinker with a discount-for-data business model. "Low-income consumers have less disposable income with which to pay for privacy-protective plans, and therefore are much more likely to give up their privacy in exchange for access to the Internet," wrote Eric Null, a policy lawyer at the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute. "Low-income consumers should not have to decide between internet access and privacy, but pay-for-privacy forces that decision upon them."


Your Internet privacy shouldn’t be a ‘luxury item,’ FCC Chairman Wheeler says