Skip privacy worries with with batch map challenges

Some people who have challenged the accuracy of the Federal Communications Commission’s national broadband map are being met with an unpleasant surprise: After completing the process, they’ve discovered that the FCC’s map publishes their submission online without first informing them prominently that it had planned to do so. 

“I submitted a challenge for my house which included my name, address, and a contact number. As I was filling out the form there was no heads-up this was going to be published verbatim on the map. Now when I search for my address I can pull up the whole thing, in all its personally-identifiable glory. I can see my neighbors' challenges, too, though they had the foresight to not give their identities away,” wrote the individual, whose identity won’t be disclosed for obvious reasons. (The individual gave permission to share this experience.) 

“It sure seems like the challenge form should have in big flashing letters: "the whole internet will be able to see what you're about to write here". What if someone included their Comcast account number? Someone with far too much time on their hands could do bad things,” 

The FCC only discloses that it “may” publish the details of your individually-submitted challenge information publicly online in its BDC Privacy Act Statement. 

That’s a hyperlink at the very bottom of its “Privacy Act Statement” at the bottom of the challenge form. It’s something that most people are unlikely to click on.

That's in contrast to many state broadband map collection efforts, which often shield internet service providers and others from disclosing their business and service subscription information from public disclosure. And unlike the FCC's fabric map, do not make any ownership claims on the information. 

State broadband offices can take the lead on this issue when asking their residents to submit challenge information by collecting the information in bulk and then submitting the information in bulk to the FCC. 

For example, the office of Broadband Expansion and Accessibility of Mississippi doesn't collect people's names when collecting challenge information. Neither does the Washington State University Extension, which is helping the Washington State broadband office collect crowdsourced data to assist with bulk challenges to the FCC Broadband Map.

Federal privacy law requires the federal government to tell citizens what information it collects about them and how it uses it. That’s the reason that the FCC’s broadband map comes with the Privacy Act statement attached. 

The FCC's map also comes with a number of other types of disclaimers, such as the fact that you, as the submitter of the information, are allowing “the FCC to retain full, unlimited rights to any information and/or data submitted to the FCC,” as well as to a third-party vendor. 

A FCC spokesperson did not respond to a query about these clauses. can help states to gather challenge information with its community broadband kit and cloud-based software system. 

More Articles

Think you can complete your BEAD application in 90 days? Think again. Thumbnail Image

Think you can complete your BEAD application in 90 days? Think again.

January 18, 2024

If you're waiting for your state's application, you'll be too late.

Montana begins broadband challenge process Thumbnail Image

Montana begins broadband challenge process

January 09, 2024

The big sky state joins a small list of eligible entities that have kicked off their broadband challenge process.