FCC Broadband Test May Enable Warrantless Snooping, Coalition Warns

Consumers who test their broadband connections on a government website may be turning over information that could allow law enforcement agencies to review their Internet activity without due process or judicial scrutiny.

Today, CEI joined with several other public interest groups in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski expressing strong concerns about the practice, which the FCC claims is legal and appropriate.

The potential for government to abuse citizens’ personal information poses a unique threat to individual freedom. Therefore, federal agencies bear a unique burden of justifying, disclosing and minimizing their collection and use of personal data.

Information collected by the tests includes users’ IP addresses, street addresses, mobile handset latitude/longitude data and unique handset identification numbers.

The coalition’s letter urges the FCC to carefully evaluate the privacy implications of its broadband testing program and implement measures to enhance privacy, including:

• Disclosing personal information to other government agencies for purposes unrelated to broadband testing only when doing so is required by law;

• Minimizing its collection and retention of potentially sensitive personal information (including street addresses and handset identification numbers);

• Where the collection of such information is justified, properly de-identifying the data to preserve its value and protect the identities of individuals and their locations;

• Regularly disclosing how personal information, including street addresses, is retained, used, and shared with other governmental agencies; and

• Imposing the same limits on the public disclosure of IP addresses by the FCC’s contractors, M-Lab and Ookla, and its other software partners.

The coalition’s letter also asks the FCC to post a prominent notice warning users how their personal information may be used and ensure this notice appears before the tests are administered.

Read the full letter with the list of signatory organizations here.