Companies like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T can now use their customers’ data any way they want to without consent. President Donald Trump repealed the new Internet privacy rules that had required these companies to inform users about the nature of the information they are collecting.
Voices for and against data privacy rules
Democrats were not in support of scrapping the privacy rules, but the Republicans went ahead with it. The information was conveyed through a White House statement late on Monday, attracting criticism from users and subscribers.
However, it could be a major win for telecom companies or any other company that relies heavily on user data. The repealed regulations had been adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Obama administration, and they had required Internet service providers to make stricter rules in order to safeguard the privacy of their users.
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Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union stated that Congress should have placed privacy over profits. Further, it stated that most Americans are of the opinion that sensitive Internet information is closely guarded. The move was approved by Congress on March 28 in a 215-205 vote.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai is, however, supporting the repeal, saying that the privacy rules were flawed and were never implemented. He added that these privacy rules were put in place to benefit a particular group of companies rather than consumers. Pai also said that the FCC will work in close association with the Federal Trade Commission, which regulates websites, to restore the “FTC’s authority to police internet service providers’ privacy practices.”
More power to Internet providers
In a statement, Comcast, Verizon and AT&T said they are not going to violate their users’ privacy, but those in favor of privacy rules know that promises like this are misleading. Since most Americans live in areas where there is just one Internet service provider, they have to accept the data sharing norms set by these in order to get Internet access, notes BuzzFeed.
There are a lot of invasive things that Internet service providers can do with user data. Gigi Sohn, counselor for former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, stated that the repeal means that all these companies can now sell user data and personal information to the highest bidder without the need of users’ consent, notes The Verge. Moreover, there is nothing in place that can protect this data sharing.
Gaurav Laroia, policy counsel at Free Press, told BuzzFeed News that there are various medical, financial and legal websites such as U.S. court websites that are unencrypted, and therefore, Internet service providers will be able to sketch a detailed profile of customers and sell it to whomever they wish. For instance, if anyone is visiting medical websites, third parties can learn their illness, revealing sensitive information.
Towards the end of this year, Republicans are also expected to capsize the net neutrality provisions under which broadband providers were reclassified and treated as public utilities, according to CNBC.