DBS Privacy Measure Stalls


Washington-A congressional provision that could restrict the ability of satellite-television providers to collect and distribute personal information apparently isn't going anywhere this session.

The provision is part of legislation introduced in April by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in the Internet Integrity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act of 2000.

Satellite providers could collect personal information only to "render a satellite service" or "detect unauthorized reception" if the bill passed in current form. The legislation would also prohibit service providers from sharing personally identifiable information without the subscriber's consent.

"It's sort of the tail rather than the dog in this particular bill," said Andy Wright, general counsel and vice president of government affairs for the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association, noting that Congress probably would not have time to address the provision until the next session.

Satellite companies were steamed about the measure.

"It's really a solution in search of a problem," DirecTV Inc. spokesman Robert Mercer said. "Our customers suggest to us that they don't see this as a problem in the way we treat customer information."

Like DirecTV, EchoStar Communications Corp., the second-largest satellite-television provider, said it carefully guards subscriber data.

"The question is: To what use can you put subscriber data?" Wright said, noting that the bill's sponsors were concerned that satellite providers might be able to "give information to the car dealer down the street."

He added that the provision could limit the ability of satellite providers to link their services with those of other companies.

States News Service