Privacy Groups Say Government Broadband Speed Tests Open Door to Legal Snooping

By Tracey E. Schelmetic October 12, 2012

If you’re concerned about the speed of broadband you’re getting from your carrier – making sure you get what you pay for, since sometimes speeds don’t meet promises from carriers – you may visit one of many test sites that confirm your speed.

Some of these test sites are government sponsored, such as that found on

One group is warning consumers they may be getting more than a speed test; they may be providing the government a good snoop around their browsing history. In fact, you may be turning over information that could allow law enforcement agencies to review their Internet activity without due process or judicial scrutiny.

Information collected by the tests includes users’ IP addresses, street addresses, mobile handset latitude/longitude data and unique handset identification numbers.

A coalition of public interest groups sent a letter today to FCC head Julius Genachowski to express strong concerns about the practice, which the FCC claims is legal and appropriate, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“The potential for government to abuse citizens’ personal information poses a unique threat to individual freedom,” said Ryan Radia, associate director of technology studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Therefore, federal agencies bear a unique burden of justifying, disclosing and minimizing their collection and use of personal data.”

The Coalition said its goal is to urge the FCC to carefully evaluate the privacy implications of its broadband testing program and implement measures to enhance privacy, including:

  • Disclosing personal information to other government agencies for purposes unrelated to broadband testing only when doing so is required by law
  • Minimizing its collection and retention of potentially sensitive personal information (including street addresses and handset identification numbers)
  • Where the collection of such information is justified, properly de-identifying the data to preserve its value and protect the identities of individuals and their locations
  • Regularly disclosing how personal information, including street addresses, is retained, used and shared with other governmental agencies
  • Imposing the same limits on the public disclosure of IP addresses by the FCC’s contractors, M-Lab and Ookla, and its other software partners.

A copy of the letter sent to the FCC can be found here.

Edited by Braden Becker

TechZone360 Contributor

Related Articles

Will the Next Generation of Computers be Crowdsourced? Maybe

By: Doug Mohney    10/25/2016

If you have any doubts that the world of PC design has stagnated - looking at you Apple, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and whoever else is left standing this week…

Read More

The Cybersecurity Race to Secure the Internet of Things

By: Doug Mohney    10/25/2016

Last week's wave of worldwide DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks through the use of unsecured Internet of Things (IoT) devices is both distu…

Read More

AT&T Announces Plans to Buy Time Warner

By: Paula Bernier    10/24/2016

AT&T over the weekend revealed plans to purchase Time Warner Inc. in a deal valued at more than $85 billion, driving down both of their stocks and dra…

Read More

Google Adds CBS to its Unplugged Roster

By: Steve Anderson    10/21/2016

Over-the-top Web-based television seems to be the way of the future, as demonstrated by Netflix, Hulu, and a host of developments to follow, along wit…

Read More

A New Stock Price High for Microsoft?

By: Steve Anderson    10/21/2016

It would be easy to think that Microsoft's stock price glory days were behind it, lost with the dot-com bubble and a little song called "Mambo No. 5."…

Read More