Options for Promoting Privacy on the National Information Infrastructure. 5. Other Telecommunications Services

04/01/1997

New telephone service options like Caller ID and Automatic Number Identification (ANI) raise new privacy issues. Recently, the FCC approved final rules for nationwide Caller ID, which will let subscribers see the phone number of even long-distance calls they receive. To protect consumer privacy, the FCC will allow callers to block their numbers from being displayed on a per-call basis and a per-line basis.127 With ANI, a marketing firm can immediately obtain the phone number of a caller and then obtain other specific personal data on that individual by using commercial databases. ANI data can easily be used to build marketing lists without a caller's knowledge or consent. No policy limits this type of activity, and most consumers are not aware of its existence.128

In October 1995, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), drawing upon the Privacy Principles, developed a White Paper, Privacy and the NII: Safeguarding Telecommunications-Related Personal Information.129 The NTIA White Paper constructed a framework for safeguarding personal information associated with subscribing to and using telecommunications or information services. NTIA proposed a voluntary framework for the telecommunications industry with two fundamental elements: provider notice and customer consent.130 NTIA calls upon telecommunications and information service providers to notify individuals about their information practices, abide by those practices, and keep customers informed of subsequent changes to such practices. Under this framework, individuals are considered to have consented to use of their information in accordance with the business' notice if they do not object. This tacit consent (opt-out) is considered sufficient in most cases. When sensitive information is at issue, however, explicit consent (opt-in) is required.131

Following release of the proposed framework, NTIA contacted more than 40 telecommunications and information providers requesting feedback on their policies and practices. NTIA is now meeting with the providers to determine if they adhere to the principles outlined in the report. Based on the outcome of these discussions, NTIA will determine whether further government action is needed.

NTIA has also issued a call for papers on how to make voluntary codes more effective and, more specifically, to obtain consensus on principles, including provisions for auditing and dispute resolution. NTIA plans to issue a report on papers received from members of industry, as well as from the academic and legal communities.


127. See Gautam Naik, New FCC Rules To Let Caller ID Run Nationwide, Wall St. J., Dec. 12, 1995, at B8, available in 1994 WL-WSJ 9910068.

128. See Debra Berlyn, Protecting Telecommunication Consumers, Privacy in the National Information Infrastructure, The National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, Jan. 27, 1994, at 5.

129. u.s. Dep't of Commerce, Nat'l Telecomm. & Info. Admin., Privacy and the NII: Safeguarding Telecommunications-Related Personal Information (1995), available at NTIA Reports, Filings, and Related Materials (last modified Apr. 2, 1997)<http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/policy/privwhitepaper.html>.

130. Id. at 19-27.

131. Id. at 25.