Yesterday was a dark day for personal privacy. House Republicans voted on Tuesday to repeal the internet privacy protections what were approved by the Federal Communications Commission in the final days of President Obama’s tenure.
For the average American, this means that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can sell your internet history to the highest bidder, most likely to advertising companies, without your permission. ISPs can gain a healthy profit from your data, including internet history, app-usage, and geo-locations. Advertisers will now know what you look at, how you look at it, when and where.
The privacy protections republicans repealed yesterday would have forced ISPs to seek your permission before selling your data, likely meaning that they wouldn’t have been able to sell this information since most people don’t want advertisers and privately owned companies to have access to such personal information.
The protections would have given consumers control over their own personal data. This is especially important at a time when your phone, iPod, and even your fridge and air-conditioning can be connected to the internet.
Republican Representative Michael Burgess (R-TX) said that the privacy rules were “duplicative regulation”, and that repealing them would “level the playing field for an increasingly competitive market.”
Republicans were worried that the rules would burden ISPs while allowing web companies like Google and Facebook to collect users data without permission.
However, instead of applying similar privacy protections to a wider range of online businesses, Republicans instead decided to get rid of the rules altogether.
Opponents and Democrats rightly argued that the Republican approach effectively hands private data to the highest bidder. Anna Eschoo (D-CA) said:
It totally wipes out privacy protections for consumers on the Internet. I don’t want anyone to take my information and sell it to someone and make a ton of money off of it just because they can get their mitts on it.
Plenty of ISPs already sell their customers data. Often they offer ways to opt out but most customers do not know about or expect companies to sell their private data for profit. It’s easy enough to choose robust privacy settings for platforms like Facebook or Twitter, but it’s very hard to hide your internet history from your ISP.
In the modern age personal data is the new gold. Advertisers use this information to deliver bespoke advertising. Ever wonder why, after searching for a particular product on Google, adverts for such products suddenly appear all across the internet? That’s because someone, somewhere, has sold your search history to an advertising company.
Republicans have proven once again that they care more about the interests and profits of large corporations that the rights of individual Americans. This development should leave no doubt in the minds of citizens that businesses will always benefit more than the people when Republicans are in power.