The right to privacy has long been a staple among celebrated American freedoms but that genuine benefit was only recent won over in terms of internet browsing history. Indeed, the Obama administration had set out to issue new FCC rules which would prevent internet providers from selling your personal information to the highest bidder.
This practice is not necessarily harmful to users; after all, what companies are really buying are your habits, from which they determine how to target you for marketing. Your specific identity is often not even a consideration.
Still, while it could be argued that this practice is not harmful, it is still invasive and undesirable. As such, Obama urged the FCC to make new rules that would, again, prohibit internet providers from selling your information to marketers. Essentially, if an internet provider wants to do this, they must first get consent from the user.
But it looks like all that hard work was for nothing, as the new President Trump administration is ready to sign into legislation that will roll back these regulations.
Essentially, the rules treat data as a form of property which belongs to the consumer. The new regulations, then, dictate that your internet browsing history—which is, technically, data—actually belongs to the company who providers you with internet access. The internet provider, then, can sell your private information without your consent. In addition, the new rules will make it harder for the FCC to pursue similar protection policies in the future.
It is important to note, also, that Google does not need permission from users to track their web behavior (after all, that is how Google makes its money), while telephone companies (like AT&T) do. As such, FCC chairman Ajit Pai says that he and other Republicans simply want the Federal Trade Commission to secure privacy for both broadband/telecom companies and internet providers, equally.
Of course, many are up in arms about this. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, for example, warns that should the president go through with this action, “consumers will be stripped of critical privacy protections.” He also advises that the signing of this law into action would make all private data “fair game” for internet companies to sell as they see fit, all for the sake of quick and easy profit.
Comcast senior vice president Gerard Lewis reassures, though, that even though this week’s congressional action might allow for the sale of personal information, the FCC regulation will not simply allow providers to outright sell your information.
No matter how you look at it, President Donald Trump is preparing to make and announce his decision soon.