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Goodbye, Privacy. Your Online Browsing History May Soon Be For Sale

Congress has voted to repeal online privacy rules that would have given consumers greater notice and control over their data. Internet Service Providers such as AT&T and Verizon will now be able to sell your browsing history, app usage, and geo-location. 
Credit: Getty Images

For Sale: your online browsing history.

-The apps you use

-Websites you visit


-Financial and health info

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.

#libraries are into #privacy tho. #OfficeSpace#lumbergh#HeresYourFlair WhiteboardArt

— thelibrarywhiteboard (@thecircdesk) March 29, 2017

The repealed law had set out to give more control to consumers over their privacy online, ensuring that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would have to notify their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 is 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. 

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."

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

— Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) March 29, 2017

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.


Want to connect with me? Reach out @TechEthicist and on Facebook

"So as an ordinary internet user there is quite a number of things you can do to defend your rights online.  First of all, is you have to be aware.  You need to be paying attention to how your social networks, how the internet services you depend on are collecting your information. You should be asking questions about how they share that information with the government, with other companies, who can access that information under what circumstances."-Rebecca MacKinnon, internet policy expert. 


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