Reg comments36

Good Guy Comcast: We're not going to sell your data, trust us

We won't mistreat customers on this, vows company best known for mistreating customers

Poster for the movie Cable Guy. Copyright:  Columbia Pictures Corporation,

Update US cable giant Comcast is looking to calm public outrage over its newfound ability to sell the browsing histories of its customers.

In a post to the company's corporate policy blog, chief privacy officer Gerard Lewis vowed not to take advantage of the recently passed legislation limiting the FCC's ability to protect consumer privacy.

"At Comcast, we respect and protect our customers' personal information. Always have, always will," Lewis wrote.

"We do not sell our broadband customers' individual web browsing history. We did not do it before the FCC's rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so."

Lewis goes on to vow that Comcast, notorious for its poor customer service, will continue to abide by a privacy policy it says was already in compliance with the FCC's privacy rules for ISPs, and whatever data it does share with advertisers can be opted out of by subscribers.

"Comcast has committed to privacy principles that are consistent with the FTC's privacy regime, which has applied to all entities in the Internet ecosystem for over 20 years and which continues to apply to Internet edge companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon," the Comcast privacy chief and deputy general counsel said.

"We believe this commitment is legally enforceable in multiple ways, including by state Attorneys General."

That is not to say, however, that Comcast has anything against this week's controversial legislation. Rather, Lewis argues, people are making too much of the effort to put consumer privacy squarely in the hands of those who stand to make money by exploiting it.

"In view of all the misinformation and inaccurate statements that have been made in the last week, we want to make sure that our customers understand how strong our privacy protections really are," says Lewis.

"So we will revise our privacy policy to make more clear and prominent that, contrary to the many inaccurate statements and reports, we do not sell our customers' individual web browsing information to third parties and that we do not share sensitive information unless our customers have affirmatively opted in to allow that to occur."

Comcast says its customers shouldn't worry about having their browsing histories or personal information sold off by Comcast, because the cable giant doesn't have any immediate plans to do so. And if they do decide to change that policy, customers should rely on the state governments to stand up to a company that writes its own laws in many places.

In short, Comcast may be able to sell out its customers now, but customers should trust them not to.

And who can you trust, if not the company that once changed a customer's name to "Asshole Brown" out of spite? ®

Updated to add

Comcast is not the only ISP promising to play nice. Verizon, which was recently caught using illegal "supercookies" to track users, says of selling browser histories: "We don't do it and that's the bottom line."

Meanwhile, AT&T, the carrier that was fined by the FCC for letting scammers insert bogus charges onto customer bills, says it "had the same protections in place the day before the Congressional resolution was passed, and we will have the same protections the day after President Trump signs the CRA into law."

Like Comcast, both carriers have less-than-stellar histories of protecting customer privacy, and both now believe customers should simply take their word that the new-found freedoms to deal in personal info for profit will not be abused.

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