Bryan ClarkFormer Managing Editor, TNW
Bryan is a freelance journalist. Bryan is a freelance journalist.
Update (April 4): President Trump has signed into law a resolution that rolls back the FCC’s rules that prevented ISPs from collecting and selling customers’ data to third parties without their consent.
Our original report follows.
Congress today approved a measure that allows internet service providers (ISPs) to sell your web browsing history to the highest bidder.
Senate Joint Resolution 34 (S.J.Res.34) passed mostly along party lines. Not a single Democrat voted in favor, while 15 Republicans did vote against the resolution — unfortunately 215 voted in favor of it.
The vote today was one in favor of rolling back Obama administration guidelines designed to protect consumers from ISPs that sought to collect, and sell personal data from customers. This information included, but isn’t necessarily limited to internet browsing history and search data. This would, presumably, be used by third-party corporate interests to track internet users and inject relevant ads.
As the Electronic Frontier Foundation pointed out, these rules protect consumers from nefarious actions previously attempted by ISPs like AT&T and others. They include:
- Selling your data to marketers
- Hijacking searches
- Snooping through your internet traffic and inserting ads
- Pre-installing software on your phone and recording your activity
- Injecting undetectable, undeletable tracking cookies in all of your unsecured web traffic
After passing the Senate days before, the repeal of the FCCs privacy rules today passed through the House of Representatives. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.
Proponents of the repeal argue it’s necessary to do away with the regulations that stifle innovation by forcing ISPs to abide by unreasonably strict guidelines. Opponents argue the guidelines are fair, and all the rules prevent are spying on customers by the ISPs.
Regardless of which side you fall on, we’ve essentially turned over the internet to ISPs, and stripped away what few rules they had in regards to our privacy. We’ve now given ISPs — and partners they share data with or sell data to — everything from the content of your emails to what apps you download, and even (potentially) your online healthcare records.
The repeal also means ISPs are no longer required to alert you of potential data breaches and take reasonable measures to protect our user data.
Worse, the ruling could put the FCC in danger of not being able to create similar ones in the future. According to the Congressional Review Act:
Once a rule is thus repealed, the CRA also prohibits the reissuing of the rule in substantially the same form or the issuing of a new rule that is substantially the same, “unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the joint resolution disapproving the original rule.
It’s a sad day for the internet.
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