On Thursday, March 23, 2017, the Senate approved a joint resolution by Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to repeal the Obama administration’s Internet Privacy Rules by 50 to 48 votes. These rules were approved on October 27, 2016 by the Democratic majority in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect consumer privacy while surfing on the internet.
The 2017 FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, and the Republicans stated that the current rule placed internet service providers (ISP) or broadband companies at a disadvantage against large data-collecting companies like Google and Facebook. They argued that the previous administration’s FCC ruling created inequality between what internet providers can do and what Web companies are allowed to do. They feel these regulations are too restrictive. Overturning the bill would allow ISP (Comcast, AT&T and Verizon) to profit from data mining activities that search engine companies like Google and Facebook do.
Currently the Senate repealed internet privacy rule is not law yet. It is pending the House vote in which the date has not been determined. If the House approves it, then it is sent to the president to sign it into law.
Currently internet providers are prohibited from abusing customer data collected as they peruse the Web on their computers and mobile devices. The repeal would open the door for broadband companies to profit from customers’ usage information to become online advertisers and also sell that data to third party advertisers. Then telecom companies can engage in the consumer data-collection business like search engine companies.
FCC regulations are now limiting the type of data ISP can share and under what conditions. It allows consumers to forbid ISP from sharing “sensitive” information such as mobile data location and app usage history. It also requires internet providers to better protect consumer data from hackers.
Repealing internet privacy laws would remove safeguards established to protect consumers on the Web, thus making customers more vulnerable to hacking, plus having their behavioral data and possible confidential information being sold. Consumers’ entire digital footprint are at risk of being sold and being released into the public domain. When entering confidential financial information, medical history, or personal identity online, customers are more at risk of that information being hacked, because ISP are not bound to making the internet a secure place as is now.
Senator Flake and Republicans maintain that safeguards still remain when these rules are overturned, because there remains recourse in which attorney generals can hold internet providers responsible for future privacy issues. But is it not better to prevent this from happening in the first place so that consumer confidential information does not end up in the public domain or for corporations to profit from? Once that information is online, it resides online. Additionally, if broadband companies are not doing their due diligence to protect customers from cyber security breaches as a service provider, then where is the consumer protection on the internet?
As consumers, do you feel comfortable that your online footprint may no longer be protected and can become public? Tell us your thoughts on the matter. Are you confident that you will have success prosecuting these tech giants, should your personal and confidential data be released? Let your Representative know your thoughts prior to their House vote on the topic.