Starks Warns of Potential Privacy, Data Issues With ATSC 3.0

MIAMI—As the broadcast industry eagerly anticipates the implementation of the new ATSC 3.0, aka NextGen TV, standard, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks says issues like data privacy and other security implications must not be overlooked in the excitement of the rollout.

Geoffrey Starks

Geoffrey Starks

Speaking in front of a gathering of the NAB Joint Board of Directors in Miami on Jan. 27, Starks stressed that for broadcasters to maintain their primary goal of serving the public interest, they must consider how many of the new features NextGen TV offers could impact the consumers using it, features like targeted ads and viewing suggestions—“DTV on steroids,” as Starks put it.

“All those features rely on consumer data that will be collected by broadcasters and device manufacturers,” Starks said. “How will that data be kept secure? How will it be stored, anonymized or sold? How will consumers by fully aware of what data are being collected and how it is being used?”

He specifically spoke of dangers regarding algorithms and machine learning technology, citing a study from the National Institute of Standards and Technology that some algorithms can exhibit biases for demographic groups defined by sex, age and race.

“The point is this—as the broadcast industry starts to think through ATSC 3.0, be sure to widen your aperture to be aware of and conscientiously think through complex issues involving data and privacy that are going to dominate our shared future,” Starks said.

Starks also took time in his speech to address the role of broadcasters in serving the public interest with news and other programming, as well as the need for greater media diversity, including the FCC’s own role in gathering data on the subject.

Starks’ full speech is available online.

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