Last week, in a rather surprising turn of events, the US Senate voted 50 – 48 to overturn a set of broadband privacy rules that would have required internet service providers (ISP) to get consumer consent before selling their web browsing data to advertisers or other data companies.
This topic may sound somewhat familiar, as the original set of rules were passed by the FCC in October of last year.
The FCC’s Rule
Last October, the FCC passed a set of rules that demanded explicit user permission before selling data to any third parties. This included the ISP’s collection of data INCLUDING location data, app usage, and browsing history.
Of course the ISPs were still free and clear to use this information for their own marketing/targeting, they were not allowed to sell it without permission.
The FCC’s rules did not, however apply to services like Google or Facebook. The reason was that you could choose to avoid Facebook, but many users do not have a choice in ISP. Simply put, the Senate has voted to overturn the FCC’s rules which would have taken effect as soon as December 4, 2017.
The Senate’s Decision to Overturn
The Senate used the Congressional Review Act to overturn the FCC’s provisional rules, as well as, making sure they would not be able to pass similar rules in the future.
Oddly enough, Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) seems to think the FCC’s regulations were too confusing for consumers.
He stated, “The FCC’s midnight regulation does nothing to protect consumer privacy. It is unnecessary, confusing, and adds yet another innovation – stifling regulation to the internet…”
The confusion he speaks of seems to be the aforementioned Google/Facebook versus ISP debate: you need an ISP to connect to the internet; you do not need Facebook or Google to browse.
Essentially, if you’re worried Google/Facebook would share your information, you could stop using them and still utilize the internet because the FCC demanded ISPs ask your permission before sharing data. Doesn’t seem too complicated, does it?
On the other side of the coin
According to Lifehacker, Senator Markey (D-Mass), stated, “President Trump may be outraged by fake violations of his own privacy, but every American should be alarmed by the very real violation of privacy that will result of the Republican roll-back of the broadband privacy protections.”
He continued, stating, “Senate Republicans have just made it easier for American’s sensitive information about their health, finances, and families to be used, shared, and sold to the highest bidder without their permission.”
This is alarmingly true. When you consider how much information your ISP likely has about you and your habits, the selling of this information could be detrimental.
Let’s not kid ourselves though; ISPs have been collecting, saving, exchanging, and selling data for quite some time because by and large, there were no regulations in place to prevent them from doing so.
It seems that with the FCC’s proposed rules, the ISPs would at least have some restrictions on what they chose to do with your data, that is before the Senate overturned it.
What does this mean for the average internet user? If you’re just surfing the web, watching YouTube and checking your email, you might be wondering what’s with all the commotion.
In theory, assuming this passes in the House as well, your ISP could start selling a complete Michael Westen-esque dossier on you and all of your proclivities.
It knows where you bank, what you search for, what songs you like to play on repeat, what health problems you might be having, your email contacts, who you’re fighting with on Facebook, what job postings you’ve looked at, which dating sites you belong to, how much credit card debt you have, and the list goes on and on.
Seriously, take a few moments and think about your recent searches and how that could be bundled with everything else you do online and sold as a “package deal.”
You have at least one option.
You could choose to switch to a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. We cultivated a beginner’s overview to VPNs here. If you’re not familiar with them, a VPN connects two computers securely and privately over the Internet – definitely worth checking into should this measure pass the House and President Trump.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Its too soon to tell whether or not the ISP issue will pass, but it is an issue worth keeping tabs on.” quote=”At this point, it’s too soon to tell whether or not the issue will pass, but it is an issue worth keeping tabs on as it concerns the safety and security of everyone’s information.”]
What do you think about the Senate’s approval of this measure?