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The Forest Conservation Council, the American Bird Conservancy, and Friends of the Earth had asked the Commission in 2002 to order the owners of 5,797 antenna structures in the Gulf Coast region to draft environmental assessments “disclosing the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of their structures on migratory birds.” The organizations also asked the FCC to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the effect towers in the region have had and may have on migratory birds. Until an environmental review is completed, the agency should suspend registering antennas in the region, the groups argued. In its decision, the appeals court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded in part the FCC’s 2006 order. Meanwhile, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has announced a new docket — WT docket 08-61 — in response to the court remand.
May 15, 2008 • Vol. 74, No. 10 speakers agreed. “People have visceral concerns about people knowing where they are,” said Tim Lordan, executive director of the Internet Education Foundation. But Ms. Cooper cited a survey that showed that 35% of consumers don’t realize that law enforcement officials can track them through their mobile phones. She said there is no legal standard for what law enforcement must present to service providers in order to track the location of consumers, saying that a probable cause warrant for both real-time and historical location information should be necessary. “The government is routinely requesting location information from carriers” without a warrant, she added. Several industry representatives, including those who represent third-party aggregators of information, stressed that privacy controls are in place that require mobile phone users to consent to their location being released — such as to friends. However, how operators and other content providers seek that consent was a topic of discussion. Ms. Maier suggested there is a need for standardization on how notice is given and consent is sought on small mobile device screens. She also suggested that, in many cases, consumers should get recurring consent notices. While an opt-in consent regime is generally the favored approach for privacy advocates, “there’s such a thing as a bad opt in,” Ms. Cooper said, and a “good opt out.” In opening remarks, FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz said that while applications such as texting and location services have brought exciting new uses to consumers, they have also created new challenges that must be dealt with. He noted, for example, that marketers are increasingly using the text and Internet functions on mobile phones to send advertisements, and that younger users are especially being targeted. “All of these issues of heightened concern when it deals with children and teens,” he said. “It makes them easy prey for aggressive marketers.” Regarding the LBS, which allows a person to be tracked via their wireless phone, Commissioner Leibowitz said while consumers love the mapping capabilities and the usefulness it provides in emergency situations, they also raise issues about government access and privacy. Thus far, the Democratic regulator said he has been encouraged by the industry’s proactive approach to regulate itself. He cited CTIA’s LBS best practices, but said of
Mobile Commerce Raises Numerous Privacy Issues
Mobile commerce applications such as location-based services (LBS) raise numerous privacy issues, experts agreed at a May 6–7 meeting held by the Federal Trade Commission, but many opposed the imposition of new laws or regulations and said that industry best practices were the most sensible approach. “We need flexibility in the rules,” said Michael Altschul, senior vice president and general counsel of CTIA, after outlining the trade group’s new best practices to protect the privacy of consumers who use LBS. A number of speakers acknowledged that there currently is a patchwork of regulations and laws governing mobile commerce, with some applications apparently not covered at all. But industry representatives in particular urged restraint in relying on new laws or rules. Alissa Cooper, chief computer scientist for the Center for Democracy and Technology, said she doesn’t favor adding to the patchwork, but she suggested that a “baseline law” addressing consumer privacy in the digital age is necessary. But Fran Maier, executive director and president of TRUSTe, a nonprofit online privacy entity, suggested that even a baseline law could become out of date as new technologies and applications are introduced. A particular source of concern regarding privacy are LBS applications that allow individuals to be tracked,
May 15, 2008 • Vol. 74, No. 10 the industry, “they have to go further.” While the press releases put out by trade groups “say the right things ... companies have to do the right thing,” he said. He said the FTC would continue its policing role on consumer issues. Speakers discussed mobile messaging. Assistant Florida Attorney General William Haselden noted that his office has worked to enforce existing advertising laws by reaching settlements with several big players, including AT&T, Inc., after thousands of mobile phones subscribers received charges on their bills for third-party services they didn’t authorize. The charges were often for ring tones or other services advertised as free, including horoscopes and wallpaper. AT&T agreed in February to pay $2.5 million to fund the efforts of a state Cyberfraud Task Force and $500,000 for consumer education. Leigh Schachter, senior litigation counsel for Verizon Wireless, noted that his company has gone after text message spammers in a number of ways. He said the carrier blocks 100 million to 200 million spam messages a month — which account for up to 80% of all text messages — has worked with law enforcement, and has filed litigation against spammers. “Spam harms both customers and the industry,” said Mr. Schachter. During another session, panelists discussed the targeting of children as young as five years old in the wireless marketplace and cited the need to protect children from advertising and other offers to buy premium, or inappropriate content. Several speakers stressed the need for parental consent. “The parents have to take some authority and some responsibility,” said Michael Becker, executive vice president–business development for iLoop Mobile, Inc. But Jeff McIntyre, senior legislative and federal affairs officer for the American Psychological Association, said there have to be restrictions on aiming mobile advertising to children who are 7 or 8 or younger. “There’s language that they’re just not going to be able to understand,” he said. “That is, in our opinion, inherently unfair.” David Diggs, executive director of CTIA’s Wireless Foundation, said the five largest wireless carriers all offer a range of tools parents can use to control the content their children see, including the ability to turn off or filter Internet content, the ability to block unwanted text messages or phone calls, and the ability to monitor bills online. “I think you are seeing responsible behavior on behalf of the carriers,” he added. He also said his foundation has distributed educational materials on responsible mobile phone use to millions of school children.
UTC Seeks CII Use Of 14.0–14.5 GHz Band
The Utilities Telecom Council and Winchester Cator LLC have filed a petition for rulemaking asking the FCC to establish rules to allow critical infrastructure industries (CII) to use the 14.0–14.5 gigahertz band for fixed uses on a secondary basis. “Fixed point-to-point and point-to-multipoint services for fixed and temporary fixed stations should be permitted in the 14.0–14.5 GHz band on a secondary basis,” the petition said. “The proposed operations can operate without interfering with earth-to-space links and other incumbent services by following appropriate technical rules ... and through ongoing frequency coordination and interference management techniques.” The petition, which was filed May 6, asserts that the FCC should allow a single nationwide CII licensee to coordinate and manage fixed services in the spectrum, including ensuring that CII operators don’t cause interference to incumbents. “The 14 GHz CII licensee would perform all necessary on-going frequency coordination and other interference avoidance measures in consultation with an entity expert in satellite and fixed communications. In return, that entity would be permitted to use the CII spectrum on a preemptible basis for non-CII services (noncommercial and/or commercial,” the filing added.
European Commission Seeks Input on Mobile Roaming Rules
The European Commission has launched a public consultation, seeking input on the “functioning and effectiveness” of the rules governing international roaming fees that went into effect last summer. The commission must report to the European Parliament and Council this year and wants input by July 2 to inform its report. In addition to general comment on the policy, the commission asked for specific input on any problems or issues related to “inadvertent roaming” — which it described as when consumers use their mobile phone near the border of a neighboring country and are connected to a foreign network; the effect of the regulation on smaller operators and on domestic prices; the necessity of regulations governing data roaming services and SMS (short messaging service); and the appropriate duration of the roaming regulation. The commission also sought input on whether there had been “any detrimental trend away from ‘per second’ to ‘per minute’ billing as a result of the regulation.”
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