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Verizon Executive Calls for Federal Privacy Rules on 5G

July 16, 2019, 10:12 PM UTC

As Verizon rolls out speedy 5G mobile service across the U.S., it’s also preparing for heightened privacy concerns over the increased amounts of data that devices will be able to collect about their owners. The solution: U.S. federal privacy regulations that are similar to those in California and Europe, according to one Verizon executive.

State legislators have begun introducing bills that would protect consumer privacy and give consumers the opportunity to give consent about how companies’ use of their data. California has already implemented such a law as has the European Union, with a rule that is widely known as GDPR.

But Guru Gowrappan, group CEO of Verizon Media, said he’d prefer to see federal regulation on the issue rather than a hodgepodge of state laws.

“I would say doing it at the federal level is much better,” he said Tuesday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. “Rather than doing it state by state and everyone customizing it in some way.”

The arrival of 5G, which Verizon was first to launch in the U.S. this spring in limited areas, will accelerate the need to inform consumers about the types of data that companies collect about them, and to obtain their consent to share it, Gowrappan said.

The problem Verizon is now trying to solve, he added, is simplifying the process so that consumers aren’t bombarded with pop-ups on their screens that ask them to agree to lengthy fine print. “It’s hard to go through that list and say do I agree with this, do I consent, do I share that data?” he said. “The biggest thing we are working on now is, how do you improve the user experience?”

The “key,” for Verizon, Gowrappan continued, is to find a straightforward and concise way to ask consumers for their consent, “rather than showing 1,000 words” of legalese.

Although the future of U.S. privacy rules is unclear, Verizon is already updating its internal rules for data collection and the rules related to which partners it shares that information with. “Our policies will change and become stricter too,” Gowrappan added, predicting that other companies will do the same.

“I don’t know whether the federal government can do that, but I know companies will start acting,” he said.

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