The broadband privacy rules created by the FCC last year and vigorously debated last night are in grave danger after the Senate voted to repeal them this morning.
The rules, which forced internet service providers to get permission before selling your data, were overturned using the little-used Congressional Review Act (CRA). This is now being called “the single biggest step backwards in online privacy in many years” by those that spoke out against the repeal as well as the co-creator of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Sen. Ed Markey.
This is a big deal and a pretty bad idea for anyone even remotely concerned with privacy and limiting the already questionable practices of telecoms and ISPs.
Assuming that this resolution passes through the House, which seems likely at this point, your broadband and wireless internet service provider will have free reign to collect and sell personal data along to third parties. That information may include (but is not limited to) location, financial, healthcare and browsing data scraped from customers. As a result of the ruling, you can expect ISPs to begin collecting this data by default.
To play the devil’s advocate for a second, let’s assume there is some upside for companies in this deregulation: “You want the entrepreneurial spirit to thrive, but you have to be able to say ‘no, I don’t want you in my living room.’ Yes, we’re capitalists, but we’re capitalists with a conscience.” states Sen Ed Markey. But with the wireless and cable industries both operating as powerful oligopolies, consumers will be left with zero protection against price-gouging, no advocate for net neutrality, and as today demonstrates, far less control over their own data.
The broadband privacy rule, among other things, expanded an existing rule by defining a few extra items as personal information, such as browsing history. This information joins medical records, credit card numbers and so on as information that your ISP is obligated to handle differently, asking if it can collect it and use it.
There is Nothing Hot about this.
You can see the utility of the rule right away; browsing records are very personal indeed, and ISPs are in a unique position to collect pretty much all of it if you’re not actively obscuring it. Facebook and Google see a lot, sure, but ISPs see a lot too, and a very different set of data.
Why should they be able to aggregate it and sell it without your permission? Perhaps to gain competitive advantage or profit or to cull other aggregators, in order to better target ads or build a profile of you. The FCC thought not, and proposed the rule, part of which was rescinded
by the new FCC leadership
before it even took effect. *Sigh*
If consumers continue to lose trust in the platforms we employ to market our brands and begin to widely question their safety, security and data usage, we are in big trouble. We’re already challenged by a litany of brand safety concerns – bots, fraud, hackers, malware, viewability – and solutions aimed to mitigate yet limit marketing effectiveness (ex. ad blocking) continue to gain momentum. While some of this is good digital evolution (flashback to needing a pop-up blocker just to endure an average online session), the lack of consumer trust quickly erodes to lack of brand trust and soon those left behind willingly (or unknowingly) allowing their data to be sold on the open market might not be the ones worth reaching.
ISPs can now sell your browsing history without permission, thanks to the Senate
Senate votes to allow ISPs to collect personal data without permission