Telecom and the Internet Hearing: “What Your Broadband Provider Knows About Your Web Use: Deep Packet Inspection and Communications Laws and Policies.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet chaired a hearing on Deep Packet Inspection Technology and Consumer Privacy and Related Issues.
Below is the chairman's opening statement: 

Good Morning.  Privacy is a cornerstone of freedom.  Without question, the digital era in communications technologies will heighten concern about the sensitivity of personal information that can be collected or disclosed about individual citizens and the ever increasing pervasiveness of such data collection.

Obviously, this is happening across our society -- from video cameras at crosswalks and Federal buildings, checkout scanners in supermarkets, to the collection of information by national security entities, and the gleaning of information from a consumer's web use.

I have long fought for privacy provisions to be added to our nation's communications statutes to keep pace with changes in technology and markets.  I successfully offered amendments that became law in previous sessions of Congress to protect children's online privacy, to extend the privacy provisions of the Cable Act to Direct Broadcast Satellite television providers, to add privacy protections for wireless location information, and to strengthen telemarketing privacy protections.

In previous Congresses I also offered legislative proposals to establish a "privacy bill of rights" for Internet users that would have covered websites like Google, Ebay, Amazon, and others, as well as separate legislation that required search engine sites to destroy data collected from users that was no longer needed for any legitimate purpose.  And so I obviously have long supported the idea of legislating where needed and to do so in a way that strengthened and harmonized our nation's communications privacy laws.

In this Subcommittee, we have direct jurisdiction over the Federal Communications Commission and providers of telecommunications capabilities and services.  As such, providers of broadband access to the Internet fall squarely into our oversight role.  Today we look at how so-called deep packet inspection technologies affect consumer privacy and related issues.  

There are a couple of notable differences between the data gathering that individual websites can and do conduct and that posed by the deployment of deep packet inspection technologies in broadband networks.  First, there is a distinction in the detail, type, and amount of data collected.  As opposed to individual websites that know certain information about visitors to its websites and affiliates, deep packet inspection technologies can indicate every website a user visits and much more about a person's web use.  Second, there are already an array of laws on the books that arguably address a broadband provider's treatment of these technologies and services, including the Cable Act, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Communications Act and other laws.

From a privacy perspective, given the sheer sophistication of the technology's capability and the obvious sensitivity of the personal information that can be gleaned from a consumer's Web use, I believe broadband providers deploying deep packet inspection technologies must adopt clear privacy policies.  In my view, consumers deserve, at a minimum, 1) clear, conspicuous, and constructive notice about what broadband provider's use of deep packet inspection will be, 2) meaningful, "opt-in" consent for such use, and 3) no monitoring or data interception of those consumers who do not grant consent for such use.

Deep packet inspection technologies can be deployed not only with the intent to serve targeted advertising tailored to a user's web habits.  They can also be utilized to manage traffic on the network, detect network threat, discover the presence of copyrighted or illegal material, and other applications.  As a result, these technologies raise not only significant privacy concerns but also highlight broader policy questions, including how they impact the evolution of the Internet itself and its future prospects for driving innovation and fostering competition and job creation.

Today's hearing will allow the Subcommittee to better understand the implications of deep packet inspection technologies on consumers, broadband providers, and the broader Internet.  We welcome our witnesses to the Subcommittee and thank them for their willingness to be here this morning.



July 17, 2008

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