Metadata collected by ISP's could be used for marketing purposes, leading to lower prices for internet access, according to Maureen Ohlhausen, a commissioner with the United States Federal Trade Commission.
Speaking on the Innovating Privacy panel at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) In Las Vegas, Commissioner Ohlhausen spoke of the differences between the US model of data privacy, and others around the world, drawing comments from other panelists that that the key difference was transparency.
Joined by leaders from Microsoft, Google and Toyota, the discussion centred around regulation of big data, with a focus on addressing issues that have an evidentiary basis, rather than what were described as the 'hypothetical worst case scenarios'.
However it was the discussion around data collection and retention which drew most interest from the assembled crowd.
With the rise of connected devices, the discussion focused on the importance of consumer consent with regards to data collection and re-use.
Commissioner Ohlhausen was cool on the idea of specific regulations around data retention for ISPs.
"They fall into a special category. People access the internet in so many different ways that it becomes difficult for any one service provider to hold data on any specific user," Ohlhausen said.
"However, if this data were to be collected, then there should be a process of positive consent which would allow a user to have their data used for marketing purposes, and perhaps get a cheaper internet connection as a result"
ACS CEO Andrew Johnson said the idea had merit.
"There has been a great deal of discussion around the issue of data retention in Australia, but the commercial aspects of the discussion have largely been limited to cost," he said.
"What we are hearing from the Commissioner is that this cost might not necessarily have to be passed on to the consumer as a strict expense. Using the data collected, ISP's could, with regulation, better market to their customers."
Johnson went on to welcome the pragmatic approach of the panel.
"As big data plays a greater role in every aspect of our lives, we will need to pay even closer attention to how that data is used," he said.
"We should, however, start with a view of the positive use of data, and encourage innovation rather than excessively regulate, which could end up delivering an outcome which stifles innovation".
The opinions expressed in this article by Commissioner Ohlhausen are hers, and do not necessarily reflect those of her fellow FTC Commissioners.