Last week, it was voted by Congress voted to overturn online privacy rules created by the Obama FCC, which didn’t even go into effect yet. The rules required opt-in consent before broadband and mobile carriers (ISPs) were able to collect and sell user data for the purposes of ad targeting purposes.
For Republicans in Congress, the new FCC rules was more government outreach. However, Congress’s actions were criticized by privacy advocates as selling out consumers to corporate interests. But to carriers and ISPs who sought the action, as they argue, believes that they’d be on more equal footing with Google and Facebook when it comes to ad targeting purposes.
Once signed by President Trump, the legislation will become law. It is expected to be signed as part of the broader effort to minimize government regulation and “dismantle the administrative state.”
When the legislation is passed by both the Senate and the House, there was widespread outcry among consumer and privacy advocates. Articles began appearing over the weekend about how consumers might combat tracking of their browsing histories. VPNs seem to be the only real option; incognito mode won’t work.
Because of the rising consumer skepticism and overall hostility, AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast had some statements released on Friday that said they wouldn’t sell individuals’ browsing histories. The following are excerpts collected by Reuters:
- “We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual web browsing history. We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so,” said Gerard Lewis, Comcast’s chief privacy officer.
- Verizon does not sell personal web browsing histories and has no plans to do so in the future, said spokesman Richard Young.
- AT&T says in its privacy statement it “will not sell your personal information to anyone, for any purpose. Period.” In a blog post Friday, AT&T said it would not change those policies after Trump signs the repeal.
The word to focus on here is “Individuals.” There’s a chance that the ISPs will collect and sell aggregated user data. Currently, this isn’t any difference from the widespread ad-platform in practice today.