Internet Service Providers and Your Privacy

Last year, a heated national debate came to a satisfactory end when the Federal Communications Commission reinstated net neutrality rules without destroying the Internet.  When the rule was overturned the year before, one of the ways the agency could impose it again, according to the court, was to make net neutrality less like common-carrier regulations, and thus regain authority over broadband providers.  That’s what led us to that whole “fast lanes on the Internet” mess.  In the end, however, blocking the ability of service providers to implement a financially tiered Internet, with priority access to particular sites or services, the FCC avoided that widely detested option.  Instead, providers were reclassified as common carriers, and all was made well there.

It is in consequence of this prior decision that consumer groups and privacy activists now march on a new front, calling on the agency to extend strong privacy protections to broadband providers.  Such measures would effectively ban providers from sharing the data they collect on their customers’ online activities, i.e. with advertisers, without their consent.  This could hamper practices like AT&T’s recent invasive scanning of its users’ web browsing habits, which could cost up to $744 yearly if you want to opt out (and even then, it doesn’t exempt you from the standard data collection).  Behavior like this has drawn sharp criticism from privacy experts who decry the monetization of the transport layer we use simply to connect to the Internet.  “I think it’s a very dangerous place to go when consumer websites that are ad-driven become the model our basic Internet connectivity is based on,” says Kenneth White, a security researcher and co-director of the Open Crypto Audit Project, speaking to Ars Technica.

As it stands, the new rules these groups are calling for would also require the providers to be transparent about what data they collect and who it is shared with, as well as any data breaches they experience.  With mounting concern over people’s personal information—its collection, storage, and security—the FCC has jurisdiction to make the Internet just a little safer for consumers.

By: Jonathan Weicher on Friday, January 22, 2016
Originally published at:
Copyright: NetLib