Comcast is asking regulators for the ability to offer plans to consumers that will provide cheaper services in exchange for their personal data.
Another perspective of this optional agreement is that Comcast is essentially making people pay more for increased privacy protection of personal data.
The mass media conglomerate met with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier this week to discuss the possibility, which is already awarded to companies like AT&T, according to The Washington Post.
Comcast, the world’s largest television cable provider, is looking to continue cable and internet dominance by acquiring as much information about the customers as possible. Aspects like web history, search tendencies and general behavioral patterns give companies vital information that can optimize advertising strategies and increase revenue.
Comcast argues that as a business they should have the option to offer lower prices for personal data, especially if people are willing. “Such a prohibition would harm consumers by, among other things, depriving them of lower-priced offerings” and even limiting internet access and widespread adoption but not allowing it to be more affordable, Comcast explained in a regulatory filing.
(Perhaps unaware) consumers, for the most part, already agree to have their data possessed and analyzed by using online services, like Google, iTunes, Facebook and Twitter. Many of these companies rely on knowing as much about the customer as possible and provide official, albeit cryptic and lengthy, consent forms, as a means of notification and contract. Comcast and other internet and TV providers want the same opportunity.
The FCC and many privacy advocates worry that Comcast will not be able to guarantee data security. Comcast states in its filing that they have “partnered with vendors who have helped to enhance consumer data privacy” and that it “ensures through contractual provisions that vendors who handle customer-related data have strong measures in place to protect” it. But giving discounts for more data can also be interpreted as charging more for more data.
It was reported Wednesday that big name companies like Facebook and Google are also currently lobbying the FCC, specifically to not allow mobile providers to give consumers free data programs. Such programs offer other businesses a way to reach out to consumers without including Google or Facebook as an intermediary, which will inevitably increase competition.
Google and Facebook want to limit these programs to maintain control over advertising on smartphones.
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