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Should internet privacy be a luxury?




A student uses a laptop computer during a English lesson at the Ridings Federation Winterbourne International Academy.
A student uses a laptop computer during a English lesson at the Ridings Federation Winterbourne International Academy.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

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In our online lives, a lot of us make privacy concessions for the benefit of free email services or using social media.

But what about handing over personal details to your internet company for a lower bill?

That’s what Comcast defended in a filing to the Federal Communications Commission last week. The web service wants to offer two different plans: Privacy-conscious customers can pay more to keep their information out of the hands of marketers and those trying to save a few bucks can opt for a lower bill but with more ads online.

In the FCC filing Comcast argues this kind of information exchange already exists online, for example when you use Google or Facebook and then get personalized ads.

According to Comcast, banning two-tier pricing “would harm consumers by, among other things, depriving them of lower-priced offerings.”

Critics say pay-for-privacy discounts aren’t about providing lower-income customers with more options; they’re make the basic right to privacy cost prohibitive. The FCC is currently reviewing new rules on internet privacy. For now the potential regulations don’t ban two-tier pricing but it’s not out of the question.

Last week FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said, “I would hope that privacy doesn't become a luxury item.

Do you feel people should pay more for their internet service to see less ads? Does two-tier pricing create privacy inequality online for those with less disposable income or give customers more affordable options? Would you share personal information for cheaper internet access?

Guests:

Doug Brake, Telecom Policy Analyst, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Dallas Harris, Policy fellow, Public Knowledge --a digital-rights group in Washington D.C; she tweets from @dallashpk