News & Insights  |  Newsletters

FTC Wireless Workshop Participants Agree on Importance of Consumer Privacy, Little Else

December 2000

Privacy and consumer choice issues dominated the discussion at the Federal Trade Commission Wireless Workshop on December 11 and 12, as industry, government and consumer groups mostly speculated on what the consumers will want from cell phones and hand held computers in an Internet connected world. Meanwhile, FTC staff and commissioners stressed that this was an education workshop only, and that they intended to work closely with the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") and other interested parties before announcing clear policy guidance to the industry. Although wireless Internet access is widespread in parts of the Europe and Eastern Rim countries, it is uncommon today in the United States.

Clear consensus emerged that consumers would not tolerate unsolicited messages, but participants disagreed on most everything else, including who should "own the customer," what the devices will do, and how Americans will use them. The Wireless Advertising Association announced a stringent set of self-regulation guidelines, and the newly renamed Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association explained its recent petition for rulemaking to the FCC.

Internet content delivery on wireless devices will most often be provided by carrier companies licensed by the FCC, creating a very different legal and business environment from computer delivery. Wireless carriers know both the identity and location of the their customers, magnifying the privacy concerns. Licensed carriers also are subject to wide ranging FCC regulation of consumer data use, technical and service standards, and other restrictions.

For additional information, please contact John Kamp (202/719-7216 or).