WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 -- The New America Foundation issued the following news release:
Today, the Open Technology Institute (OTI) at New America Foundation joined with allies such as Public Knowledge, Consumer Action, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to file a Petition for Declaratory Ruling (http://www.publicknowledge.org/files/2013-12-11-Final-CPNI-Petition-Signed.pdf) with the Federal Communications Commission. The petition calls on the FCC to clarify that "anonymized" data about customer telephone records is protected by the privacy rules in Section 222 of the Telecommunications Act and cannot be shared without customers' consent.
The petition responds to last month's revelation that AT&T is selling bulk phone call data to the CIA, and to provisions in several of the phone companies' user agreements claiming a right to disclose "anonymized" telephone records without customers' consent. The petition argues that the law only allows phone companies to disclose aggregate information without consent, and not individual records--even if they are anonymized to remove personal identifiers. The petition further highlights how even supposedly anonymized records can often be re-identified.
"Congress tasked the Federal Communication Commission with the important responsibility of ensuring that phone companies protect their customer's private information," said Sarah Morris, (http://newamerica.net/user/347) Senior Policy Counsel for the New America Foundation'sOpen Technology Institute. "The telecoms have proven to be unreliable stewards of customers' sensitive information, and the FCC must now step in to clarify the scope of the privacy statutes with regard to anonymized call data. At a time when excessive data sharing is becoming the norm and privacy protections are being ignored, it is imperative that agencies specifically tasked with safeguarding our private information embrace that responsibility, rather than avoid it."
"In stark contrast to the Internet industry, which has united to support greater transparency and more reasonable checks and balances around the government's surveillance powers, the phone companies have been bending over backwards to voluntarily share our private data with intelligence agencies based on secret agreements that public interest advocates believe are illegal," said Kevin Bankston, (http://newamerica.net/user/602) Policy Director of the Open Technology Institute. Bankston continued, "We urge the Federal Communications Commission to reassert its role as the federal agency most responsible for protecting the privacy of our phone records and to stop the phone companies' sale or sharing of supposedly 'anonymized' phone records, whether it's to marketers or the government."
In addition to Public Knowledge, which prepared today's petition, the other signers on today's filing are the Benton Foundation, Center for Digital Democracy, Chris Jay Hoofnagle, Common Cause, Consumer Action, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Free Press, the Center for Media Justice, New America Foundation'sOpen Technology Institute, and U.S. PIRG.
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