Google looks gift horse in mouth, opposes FCC privacy protections for set-tops

While the FCC's "Unlock the Box" proposal seems remarkably tailored for Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), the technology giant has one little bone to pick with the agency in comments submitted earlier this week.

Google says that privacy rules the FCC wants to place on third-party set-top makers are unnecessary. 

"Imposing new privacy rules specifically directed to new generations of devices and applications is unnecessary given the comprehensive scope of the FTC Act and state privacy laws, which can be enforced directly against equipment manufacturers and application developers in appropriate cases," Google said in its comments on the FCC proposal. 

"Federal and state authorities, as well as private litigants, will ensure that providers of new navigation devices will be required to honor the commitments they make in their privacy policies," the company added.

The FCC's proposal would require pay-TV operators to open their video streams, beyond their own leased set-top boxes, to third-party makers of devices and apps, letting them control the interface. 

"It's outrageous that as Google expands the data it collects for targeting video advertising, it opposes having the FCC ensure through stronger rules that set-top boxes ... can actually protect consumer privacy," says Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, which actually supports the FCC proposal.  In a statement obtained by The Verge, Chester added that Google's comment is "nothing short of a new digital data power grab by the country's leading digital marketing company."

While pay-TV operators have found few friends in policy debates, the specter of Google on the other side of the set-top regulatory issue does seem to be generating some cover from unlikely sources.

Last week, for instance, Roku CEO Anthony Wood wrote an op-ed column in the Wall Street Journal, in which he said, "This would allow a company like Google to do to the TV what it did on the Web — build an interface without the 'inconvenience' of licensing content or entering into business agreements with content companies such as ABC, FOX, HBO, or video distributors like pay TV operators. The unintended consequences of circumventing these kinds of arrangements are likely to include increased costs for consumers, reduced choices and less innovation."

For more:
- read Google's FCC filing
- read this story from TheVerge

Related articles:
Pros weigh in on FCC set-top proposal
Programmers, advertisers, Congress back pay-TV operators in battle against FCC set-top proposal
FTC to FCC: Third-party set-top makers must certify their devices meet privacy guidelines

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