Qwest: Privacy Is Not Your Absolute Right

Qwest Says 'Privacy Interests' Could Impede Societal Goals

Qwest Communications International has scrapped plans to share customer information among its divisions, but says in federal documents that privacy is not an absolute customer right.

Qwest in January withdrew the plans after a backlash by thousands of customers upset about their account information being given out. The Denver-based phone company said it will wait until the Federal Communications Commission issues new rules on customer records later this year before developing another plan.

In documents filed in November with the FCC, Qwest defended its right to share customer information even with outside companies until customers ask that it not be disclosed.

Qwest and other phone companies contend the marketplace should determine how much information sharing is appropriate. The data include which numbers customers call, how long they talk and how much they spend.

Qwest spokesman Bill Myers said Qwest was drawing on previous court rulings in making its comments. When Qwest talked about sharing information with third parties, it was referring only to information it is required to share by law, he said.

"Overbroad assertions of 'privacy interests' could well impede bona fide commercial and societal goals," Qwest said in its filing.

Qwest, responding to questions about the filings, said they are legal briefs that can't be compared with statements the company makes about its policies.

"Any business anywhere always wants to make the best argument for the policy it thinks will be the most effective within the bounds of the law," said Art Brodsky, Qwest's spokesman in Washington, D.C. "You want to put the best case forward."

Such filings don't preclude Qwest from making a decision that's different from the argument it makes to the FCC, he said.

Some elected officials in Qwest's 14-state region have said the company should adopt an "opt-in" approach, meaning customers would have to give their OK before the information could be released.

Before yanking its plan, Qwest required customers to notify the company if they didn't want the data released.

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