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Congresswoman Debbie Dingell

Representing the 12th District of Michigan

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Dingell Urges FCC and FTC to Investigate Further Privacy Violations by Cambridge Analytica and other Data Collection Companies

June 29, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell continued to urge the FCC and FTC to investigate whether consumers’ viewing and other personal information was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. Dingell followed-up with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and Federal Trade Commissioner (FTC) Joseph Simmons to stress the importance of protecting consumers privacy amongst news that Cambridge Analytica improperly collected and shared information from set-top cable boxes. In addition to investigating viewing information, Dingell also urged the FTC to investigate Cambridge Analytica’s overall collection of consumers’ data and if they collected data with the help of other knowing or un-knowing data collectors and platforms.    

In April 2018, Dingell asked FCC Chairman Pai to investigate comments by Cambridge Analytica program director Brittany Kaiser, who in a 2016 interview, claimed that the company purchased consumers’ viewing or other personal data. Kaiser noted that these data are exceptionally detailed and can “tell you exactly when someone logs in, what they are recording, [and] what they fast forward through.” Additionally, Cambridge Analytica’s Chief Revenue Officer claimed earlier this year that the company could not only use such viewing habits to understand voters’ preferences but that the company could also use that data in conjunction with new smart TVs and set-top-boxes to target political content on televisions. 

In response to her original letter, FCC Chairman Pai passed the issue to the FTC, responding that TiVo and ComScore do not fall under the FCC’s jurisdiction and that “it is unclear whether DISH shared individual PII or only ‘aggregate data which does not identify particular persons’ – I believe the appropriate investigatory agency is not the FCC but instead the FTC.”

In a follow-up letter to the FCC Dingell stated that Chairman Pai’s response “raises more questions than answers. The FCC has clear authority and a responsibility to protect the viewing data of cable and satellite television subscribers. Your punting this matter to the FTC raises questions as to whether the FCC takes serious its obligation to aggressively and effectively protect consumer privacy.”

Dingell also sent a separate letter to FTC Chairman Simmons urging an investigation into whether data collectors improperly collected and shared consumer information with the Cambridge Analytica and noted that, “The FTC should also investigate how Cambridge Analytica collected information about Americans in unscrupulous ways and potentially with the aid of other data collectors.  Such an investigation should not be limited to the much-discussed personality-test app but to all of Cambridge Analytica’s and others’ tactics, including whether data on Americans was obtained by smart televisions, set-top boxes, streaming services, or other companies in the television ecosystem and whether that supplied data to Cambridge Analytica committed unfair and deceptive practices in their collection, use, and sharing of that data.”

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