Congress votes to change privacy regulations on the internet

If you like to browse the internet, some consumer groups say get ready for your service provider to spy on you and then sell your data for its own profit.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to prevent the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) from implementing rules that would have made it much harder for service providers to sell your information. The Senate had voted earlier to rollback the anticipated regulations.

Jessica Sparks is an assistant professor at Savannah State and teaches one course on digitial journalism. She says right now some of our online activity is already tracked. For example, on Facebook.

“Facebook already tracks everything you do so when I look at something on Amazon and I go to Facebook, it knows and the add pops up,” she said.

So she says tailoring ads to our buying habits is not new. But now there will be a lot more of it. “It will happen more often and it depends really on who decides to buy the content from the internet service provider,” she told me.

Service providers, according to the the Consumer Federation of America, basically know everything you do online, from the websites you visit, to the apps you have and even to the locations where you may sign on. CFA says the vote in Congress repeals broadband privacy rules, allowing internet service providers to spy on their customers and sell their data without consent and is a” terrible setback for the American public.”

Sparks doesn’t go that far, saying some consumers may not care in the sense that they may see targeted ads that interest them. But she does acknowlege there will be plenty for service providers to sell. “So there are things that they’re going to be able to track and use that information. it’s a gold mine of information that they can use to market to the highest bidder,” she said.

The more information they collect, the more likely they are to be hit by a data breach for example and then there is just the privacy concern in general, do I want Comcast knowing what I do on a daily basis and do I want them to be able to market that information to somebody?”

“it is true there can be a lot of danger that comes with more information, just like every data breach we’ve ever seen, the more information they collect, the more likely they are to be hit by a data breach for example,” said Sparks. “And then there is just the privacy concern in general, do I want Comcastknowing what I do on a daily basis and do i want them to be able to market that information to somebody?”

1st district Congressman Buddy Carter (republican from Savannah) voted to rollback the regulations and sent us this statement on why he did so.

“Since the Internet was created, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been in charge of online privacy and they have been successful in this mission. However, last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), blatantly overreached its authority by creating its own set of privacy rules that applied to a small group. The FCC claimed the rules would provide broadband customers with strong security protections. In reality, the FCC’s rules created confusion, an additional layer of bureaucratic red tape, and a false sense of privacy that simply didn’t exist. The Congressional Review Act I supported yesterday nullifies the FCC’s overreach to ensure we deliver the most effective and efficient privacy protections possible. Under the Congressional Review Act, Internet Service Providers will continue to be subject to law which protects all customer proprietary network information, as well as many other federal and state privacy rules.

“It’s important to remember the FCC rules have only been in effect since October, with many substantive portions not even implemented yet, so withdrawing them will not be disruptive. With these duplicative and unnecessary rules reversed, the FCC will be able to adopt new rules to protect consumer privacy that work with the successful FTC privacy framework instead of weakening protections.”

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