Congress Voted Against Your Internet Privacy Rights, Here's Why
Republicans' efforts to repeal finally worked! That is, when it comes to a certain internet privacy issue.
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted to reject rules established in 2016 by the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that regulates how internet service providers (ISP) can handle your personal information.
Those rules mandated that ISPs like Verizon and Comcast, had to seek your permission before sharing private info, like which sites you visit, with other companies and advertisers.
Now, however, both chambers of Congress (House and Senate) have voted to repeal those rules, largely along party lines; Republicans wanted to repeal the rules and Democrats wanted to keep them.
All that's left is for President Trump to provide his signature of approval on the resolution and since all signs indicate he'll do just that, the most relevant question now is clear: How will this affect our lives?
Why is this important?
Had they not been rejected, the Obama FCC rules would have distinguished between companies that provide you broadband internet access, like Verizon and Comcast, and the companies that operate on the internet (think Google and Facebook).
Just to be clear, Google could already shared the personal info for people who use its site. That's the reason why you'll see a whole bunch of ads for sneakers after you purchase one pair online.
However, supporters of the now-rejected rules argued that service like Google, Facebook and Web-MD are "opt-in" services that you choose to go to, while internet service is close to a necessity.
Plus, ISPs have access to a broader scope of your information, considering those companies can track all of your activity online.
How will that be different from today?
It won't be much different actually. The rules that the FCC put in place last October had not yet taken effect, as Recode reporter Tony Romm explained.
So, the ISPs weren't being regulated yet, exactly. Now that the cloud of incoming regulations is gone, though, CNET reporter Marguerite Reardon says you can expect an increase in targeted advertising.
Plus, it's worth keeping an eye on how costly, or irrelevant, a lack of regulations will be as we increase our mobile internet usage literally everywhere we go.
One silver-lining? Reardon also says ISPs may find room to lower the costs of service by increasing the money it brings in from advertisers.
Who will protect your info now?
In a statement posted after the House vote, Trump-appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai said that he opposed the government "overreach" that Obama's FCC tried to push through with its regulations.
However, Pai looked to reassure everyone that his agency will work with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect abuses of privacy.
Moving forward, I want the American people to know that the FCC will work with the FTC to ensure that consumers' online privacy is protected though a consistent and comprehensive framework. In my view, the best way to achieve that result would be to return jurisdiction over broadband providers' privacy practices to the FTC, with its decades of experience and expertise in this area.
There won't be any broad rules preventing ISPs from sharing your info without your permission. But Pai suggests the government will step in to take action when gross abuses occur.
What could I do?
There is a wide range of measures experts suggest help make your data more secure and, no, the incognito window is not one of them. The most notable suggestion? Using a VPN, aka a virtual private network.
VPNs are meant to essentially take your internet usage through an exit and onto a different highway. The major flaw with VPNs, however, is that some sites block them. Plus, they might sell your date themselves.
Simply put, new regulations for privacy aren't coming. In a world where its becoming easier to track where you are, who you're talking to and what you're looking at, those lack of regulations may or may not have consequences.