Think Studio

Originality & Clarity

Your Browing History Up For Sale.


In a rare political move that has united liberals and conservatives in outrage, the United States Congress has voted to repeal an array of internet privacy protections. The House of Representatives and the Senate have both voted to repeal the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules initiated in the waning days of the Obama administration that had not yet gone into effect. It is expected to be signed by President Trump.

The repealed law had set out to give more control to consumers over their privacy online, ensuring that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would have to notify their customers before collecting and sharing your online insight about your online behavior. How we act and interact online extremely valuable for marketing purposes. Popular Internet Service Providers include Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.

Some privacy advocates are stating that ISP should now stand for, “Information Sold for Profit.” Lobbyists for the ISPs have argued that the FCC rules went against competitive neutrality (the same rules do not apply to Google and Facebook). Republicans have suggested that ISPs should be regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) instead of the FCC.

The repeal reached the president’s desk on Wednesday morning and the White House has signalled Trump’s clear intention to sign it.

Without the FCC broadband protections, ISPs such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are free to track your browsing behaviour and sell that data on to advertisers without consent. This represents a huge treasure trove of personal data, including your health concerns, shopping habits and visits to porn sites. ISPs can find out where you bank, your political views and sexual orientation simply based on the websites you visit. The fact that you are looking at a website at all can also reveal when you’re at home and when you’re not.

Should We Be Worried?

“The move isn’t surprising,” says Ari Scharg, a privacy advocate with the Digital Privacy Alliance. “We knew that privacy rights and freedoms would unravel at the federal level under this administration. But there is a silver lining. The fight is now local at a time when grassroots activism is surging.”

Sure enough, a few GoFundMe accounts have popped up to buy the browsing data of those that voted for the law’s repeal.

While the Federal Government is Rolling Back Online Privacy Rules, States Are Enacting Them

“States across the country are already stepping up to protect consumer privacy in a meaningful way,” states Scharg. “Our expectation is that this administration’s full-scale assault on privacy will ultimately backfire. Consumer privacy concerns will become more pronounced, and we think that we’re going to end up with much stronger state privacy laws than ever before.”

Broadband providers have access to an enormous amount of private data. Without enhanced regulation, that access is ripe for abuse.

Consumers nationwide deserve strong internet privacy protections. I will fight to ensure strong privacy protections for New Yorkers.

A host of states, such as Illinois, California, and Connecticut have been moving forward with laws that serve to give consumers more knowledge as to the collection and sharing of our online data/internet behavior. Illinois is currently exploring a “Right to Know” bill that would impose a duty on commercial websites to notify users when their personal data is being collected.

Your Data is Gold

It can be mind-boggling to consider just how much can be gleaned about your online behavior. Your monitored activity gives insight into your sleeping patterns, eatings habits, and innermost desires. Our extracted data has a significant amount of value. As citizens and internet users, we need to decide not only about what data should be collected–but, perhaps more importantly, about who benefits from the underlying value of that very data.

Right now it’s not us.

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The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, said: “Americans learned last week that agents of Russian intelligence hacked into email accounts to obtain secrets on American companies, government officials and more.

“This resolution would not only end the requirement you take reasonable measures to protect consumers’ sensitive information, but prevents the FCC from enacting a similar requirement and leaves no other agency capable of protecting consumers.”

But Ajit Pai, Trump’s newly appointed head of the FCC, argued that the Obama era rules were an example of regulatory overreach and that another regulator, the Federal Trade Commission, already polices online privacy rules.

“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,” he said.

Those in favor of repealing the privacy rules argued that it levelled the playing field for internet service providers who want to get into the advertising business like Google and Facebook. According to ISPs, scrapping the rules would allow them to show the user more relevant advertising and offers, which would give the companies better return on the investment they have made in infrastructure. They argue that web browsing history and app usage should not count as “sensitive” information.

“With the approval of the president, corporations will now be handed the ability to share the sensitive, personal information of millions of Americans without their consent and hinder the FCC’s role as a consumer watchdog far into the future,” she said.

In our previous articles we had predicted this as a possibility, Now the report from the Guardian confirms it. Its high time we Indians learn the lesson before its too late.

RisingAbhi

 

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