Congress Approves Rollback of Internet Privacy Protections

Amidst all of the other chaos surrounding the new administration, you could be forgiven for not being aware of an alarming reversal in internet privacy policy. Here’s what you should know.

In October 2016 the FCC voted in new regulations to require broadband internet providers to receive permission from consumers before collecting and selling individual subscriber usage information. Protected information included web browsing, location information, financial information, personal information, and more. The regulations were slated to go into effect later this year.

Earlier this month the Senate passed a repeal of the rule on a strict party-line vote, and the House did likewise this week. There is little mystery about the next step, as the White House has stated that the President will sign the bill. Once that happens the FCC will be powerless to recreate the rule.

What this means is that your internet provider will be able to sell the data it collects on you without your permission. And this isn’t just your web browsing data, it includes any information you enter online, including personally identifying and health-related information. Since there is really no competition in local broadband providers, consumers have few options for direct action.

If you’re as outraged as we are, consider some of the following ideas:

  • Get informed about the issue. Good starting points include op-eds from March 29 in the New York Times and Washington Post, as well as https://www.fightforthefuture.org .
  • Let your cable company know that you do not want your information collected or sold. Although though they are under no obligation to heed your wishes we can hope that many voices will make a difference.
  • A petition for the President is available to sign at http://savebroadbandprivacy.org .
  • Helpful information about protecting your digital information is available at https://www.letsgetsafe.org/ . Please note that if you desire to encrypt your Hampshire-owned computer that IT should initiate the encryption to minimize the potential for data loss.
  • Watch for future erosions of your online rights. Negation of net neutrality rules promise to be the next digital battleground.