What the Death of Broadband Privacy Rules Means

Apr 03, 2017, 05:46
What the Death of Broadband Privacy Rules Means

Privacy advocates argue that the FCC's rules help protect consumers. Republicans are about to find out. The White House said President Donald Trump supported the repeal measure.

House Republicans passed a bill Tuesday that will allow internet service providers to continue to sell users' browsing habits to advertisers.

Congress passed a bill gutting internet privacy protections this week and now Democratic Senators are making a Hail Mary effort to convince the president to veto the legislation when it reaches his desk. You should be very, very scared each and every one of you, very, very scared.

The privacy protections were approved by the Federal Communications Commission in the final days of the Obama administration and had not yet gone into effect. Sonic, a California-based broadband provider, offers a free VPN service to its customers so they can connect to its network when they are not home.

Unlike Google, Facebook and their affiliated sites, which internet users can avoid with a little inconvenience, internet service providers are a requirement to access the internet, and in most markets they hold a monopoly or near-monopoly.

"The reality is all the information of what they're doing online is already being collected", Vankat said.

Privacy policies instituted by providers themselves often prohibit such explicit use of user information. The FCC still has the power to charge providers with violations of privacy, it just can't rewrite rules similar to those repealed.

Pai continued, "when you get past the headlines, slogans, and self-congratulations, this is the reality that Americans should remember: Nothing in these rules will stop edge providers from harvesting and monetizing your data, whether it's the websites you visit or the YouTube videos you watch or the emails you send or the search terms you enter on any of your devices".

According to the Washington Post, this meant internet services providers wouldn't have been allowed to place a notification about their practices in the fine print. But representatives from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, and the Center for Digital Democracy told BuzzFeed News that the consequences of the repeal may differ sharply from the comforting messages delivered by the telecom giants. AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and others are hoping that consumers won't search for the "opt-out" option, hidden deep in their preferences, or move en masse toward services that encrypt their online actions or turn off tracking.

Republicans hope that this will pass unnoticed, that there is so much else to worry about in the Trump administration that this won't even be acknowledged. Judging from how differently we treat the telephone and the internet, they may be right.

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