Communications Policy Act of 1984 (CCPA)
The Cable Communications
Policy Act (Public Law 98-549) protects the personal information
of customers of cable service providers. It incorporates the
provisions of the OECD Privacy Guidelines
of 1980, and as such provides a model of a comprehensive
privacy statute. (It also provides a model of the US's sector-by-sector
approach to privacy law, unfortunately.)
Under the CCPA,
cable companies must provide a written notice of privacy practices
to each subscriber (customer) at the time of entering into
a service contract and at least once a year thereafter. The
privacy notice must specify:
- the nature of
the personally identifiable information that is or may be
collected, and the uses to which it may be put;
- the "nature,
frequency and purpose" of any disclosure that may be
made of such information, including identification of the
persons to whom those disclosures may be made;
- how long the
information may be maintained by the cable service provider;
- where and how
the subscriber may have access to the information about
him- or herself; and
- the subscriber's
right to bring legal action if the requirements of the law
are not followed.
In general, cable
service providers must obtain prior written or electronic
consent from the subscriber before collecting any personal
information. Consent is not required to obtain information
"necessary to render cable services " (admittedly,
a rather large exception); nor is it required for information
used to detect unauthorized reception.
generally requires prior consent, with the same two exceptions
for business necessity and detection of cable piracy. Disclosure
of personal information without consent is also permitted
pursuant to a court order. The subscriber must be notified,
and offered an opportunity to appear and contest the order.
Disclosures may not generally include information about the
subscriber's particular selections of video programming. (Another
law provides protections for information about individuals'
selections of rented video materials.)
(Note that the
CCPA's requirement for notice of court orders, as well as
its high standard of "clear and convincing evidence"
that the information is material to criminal investigation,
may have been reset by the USA Patriot Act.)
As noted, a cable
service customer must be given access to the personal information
collected about him or her, "at reasonable times and
at a convenient place." The subscriber must be provided
with a reasonable opportunity to have any errors in that information
A cable service
provider must destroy personal information when it is no longer
needed for the purposes for which it was collected (and there
are no pending requests for access). It must take appropriate
steps to prevent unauthorized access of customers' personal
information for as long as it is held.
for civil action if aggrieved by a violation of the CCPA include
provisions for actual and punitive damages.
includes such "other services" as "radio and
wire communications," so it presumably reaches to information
on customers of cable broadband internet connections. The
provisions of the CCPA probably cannot be stretched to apply
to direct broadcast satellite (DBS) companies that provide
functionally similar services.
States are not
preempted from enacting laws which provide greater privacy
protections than the CCPA.