How important is your Internet privacy?
We’ve all seemed to adjust to the targeted ads on sites such as YouTube and Amazon. But could you imagine if those things were everywhere on the Internet? Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) seems to think you wouldn’t mind.
It also seems to think you wouldn’t mind if it shared the rest of your private information with third parties. I mean, sharing social security numbers seem to be all the rage these days.
Ok, ok, maybe that last sentence was a bit overdramatic. But still, it is a bit unnerving- and third parties gaining access to it is entirely within the realm of possibility.
Is your information for sale?
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established rules as to what private information ISPs can access and sell to advertisers without customer consent. The rule requires that ISPs explicitly ask customers whether they are allowed to share their private data — things such as geographic location, browsing history, app usage, etc.– to third parties.
Data that is not considered “sensitive”, however, ISPs need not ask about before sharing, as long as customers are given the option to “opt out.”
As one would expect, major providers have been rallying against the rule since its inception.
The basis for their argument?
Companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google need not abide by it. They are instead subject to a much more lax set of privacy rules because they are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The reasoning for this, as explained by proponents of the rule, is that these sites have access to only a specific amount of data.
This thinking also follows the idea that individuals have control over what sites and apps they access and use.
ISPs, on the other hand, have access to a much wider range of data: they can see everything a customer accesses over their Internet connection.
Don’t bring logic into this…
Providers are undoubtedly excited about the new Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai. A long-term opponent to the rule, Pai argues that it is not the role of the government to show “favoritism” between companies. Instead, he believes that the FTC’s “technology-neutral framework for online privacy” should apply to everyone. Though he does not have the power to completely dismantle the regulations set in place, he has requested the commission to vote on a stay regarding a specific section of the rules — relating to data security and data breach notification — before its implementation on March 2.
[clickToTweet tweet=”If O’Rielly and Clyburn agree to vote by that time, the full commission’s vote will be required.” quote=”If commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Mignon Clyburn agree to vote by that time, the full commission’s vote will be required to determine the fate of the stay request.”]
However, if they do not agree to vote then one of the commission’s bureaus will at least stay that portion of the rule: in essence, it seems, Pai seems surely positioned to block that portion of the rule.
This new development in the ongoing battle over online privacy does not mean a complete dismantling of the rules previously established. Again, this a specific portion of the rules being blocked. However, Pai’s request is especially important as major ISPs and marketing agencies are currently lobbying Congress to repeal the entire set of rules through use of the Congressional Review Act. Whether they will be successful is anyone’s guess in today’s political climate. However, it seems certain that they currently have a friend in the FCC, which is something worth being wary of.