CABLE SUBSCRIBER PRIVACY AND INFORMATION
Why did the MHCRC solicit public comment?
What are the specific privacy topics?
Should the circumstances under which the cable operator can disclose personal subscriber information to outside 3rd parties be defined?
Background: Under current federal law, the cable operator can disclose personal subscriber information to 3rd parties without advance subscriber authorization “if necessary to render or conduct a legitimate business activity related to a cable service or other service provided by the cable operator to the subscriber.” Business activities that are “necessary” or “legitimate” are undefined.Should the “opt out” procedure be strengthened or made easier or more visible?
Background: The cable operator’s “opt-out” procedure enables subscribers (by calling a 1-800 number) to act to limit or prevent disclosure of only their name and mailing address to direct mail and marketing lists.
Should prior notice to subscribers be required before private information is disclosed to 3rd parties for any reason?
Background: Currently, the cable operator can release, without notice to subscribers, personal information to 3rd parties for the purposes of “legitimate business activity” related to the cable service or related services. Business activities that are “necessary” or “legitimate” are undefined.Should subscribers be notified subsequent to any release of their private information to 3rd parties?
Background: There is no current requirement for such subsequent notification.
Should there be a fixed time limit on when the cable operator must destroy personal subscriber data which is no longer necessary?
Background: There is currently no specific time limit on how long a cable operator can retain personal subscriber data which may no longer be necessary.Should the cable operator be required to provide periodic reports regarding the timing and nature of any disclosure of personal subscriber information to third parties?
Background: There is no current requirement that the cable operator provide periodic public reports on its disclosure of personal subscriber information to 3rd parties, to whom the disclosure was made, when, and for what purpose.
Should the cable operator be required to give subscribers access to their personal information (on file with the cable operator) within a set period of time and at a location within the franchise area?
Background: Current law requires the cable operator to provide its subscribers access to their private information at reasonable times and places, and the opportunity to correct errors, but the circumstances of the access are entirely defined by the cable operator.Should violation of local privacy provisions be actionable by individual citizens?
Background: Current Federal law allows an individual citizen to bring a court action if aggrieved by a violation of the federal privacy provisions. There is no parallel requirement for violation of local privacy protections.
What is the history of MHCRC involvement on this issue?
Reasons for MHCRC/subscriber concern:
- The use of vague language such “as otherwise necessary” and the enlargement of the list of potential third parties appeared to expand the intended scope of Comcast’s use of PII outside the company beyond anything stated or understood in the prior AT&T policy.
- The MHCRC, on behalf of concerned citizens, remains concerned that the policy may not be consistent with applicable MHCRC franchise privacy requirements.
- On an operational level, the MHCRC received numerous complaints and concerns about the policy from alarmed subscribers, many of whom report an inability on the part of Comcast to adequately respond to their concerns when the subscriber contacted the 1-800-COMCAST telephone number listed in the revised notice.
2003-2004 Correspondence and advocacy history:
- MHCRC Letter to Comcast June 25, 2003 (.pdf)
- Comcast Reply Letter July 25, 2003 (.pdf)
- Comcast Letter – September 29, 2003 (.pdf)
- MHCRC letter to Comcast October 20, 2003 (.pdf)
- Comcast Letter – January 20, 2004 (.pdf)
Based largely on the MHCRC’s objections and its efforts to protect subscribers’ personal information, Comcast revised the format of its policy to improve readability of its policy. The MHCRC participated in a national committee to advocate changes to Comcast’s policy.
2005 The MHCRC checks in with Comcast on the continued protection of subscriber privacy: