Less privacy concerns on new television technology

WASHINGTON – The US Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 on Thursday to allow broadcasters to voluntarily use a new technology to improve picture quality and allow better reception on mobile phones and give advertisers dramatically more data about viewing habits.

The new standard, dubbed ATSC 3.0, would allow for more precise geolocating of television signals, ultra-high definition picture quality and more interactive programming.

Current televisions cannot carry the new signal and the FCC only requires broadcasting both signals for five years after deploying the next-generation technology.

“That means every one of us will need to replace our television sets or buy new equipment,” said Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “The FCC calls this approach market driven. “That’s right — because we will all be forced into the market for new television sets or devices.”

FCC chairman Ajit Pai defended the proposal, calling concerns about buying new devices “hypothetical.” He added five years is “a long time. We’ll have to see how the standard develops.”

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc last month called the new standard “the Holy Grail” for the advertiser because it tells them who is watching and where.

Last month, Democratic US Representative Debbie Dingell raised privacy concerns about the data the new TVs could collect about viewers.

The standard uses precision broadcasting and targets emergency or weather alerts on a street-by-street basis. The system could allow broadcasters to wake up a receiver to broadcast emergency alerts. The alerts could include maps, storm tracks and evacuation routes.

The new standard would also let broadcasters activate a TV set that is turned off to send emergency alerts.

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