Markey Targets DBS, TiVo, ReplayTV Privacy

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A House bill introduced Tuesday would take existing cable-TV privacy protections and extend them to customers of DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp.

It would also apply to digital-video-recorder service providers TiVo Inc. and ReplayTV.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), was hailed as an effort to bring privacy law up to date with technology.

"This bill provides essential, similar privacy protections for consumers regardless of whether they subscribe to Comcast [Corp.] or Cox [Communications Inc.] cable, EchoStar or DirecTV, or whether they also subscribe to TiVo or ReplayTV. This will keep our critical consumer privacy laws current with changes in the marketplace and advances in technology," Markey said in a prepared statement.

The 12-page bill would bar the collection of "personal identifiable information" without the customer's prior written or electronic consent. Customers must receive notice at least once per year -- and within 180 days for new customers -- that explains how the information would be disclosed.

The bill closely tracks with cable privacy provisions contained in the 1984 Cable Act.

TiVo vice president, general counsel and chief privacy officer Matt Zinn said the law was unnecessary because the company as a rule did not collect information on an individual-customer basis.

He added that in 2001, the Federal Trade Commission probed TiVo's privacy policies and concluded that there was no basis for action.

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