Despite the recent setbacks the Republican-controlled congress suffered in the healthcare reform arena, they managed to pick themselves up off the mat and delivered a solid drubbing in another area of consumer interest: internet privacy. Following a 50-48 Senate vote, the House passed 215-205 a “joint resolution of congressional disapproval” of the rules put in place by the FCC in October of last year to govern how internet service providers would be required to handle the piles of data they collect on your internet usage. Implementation of these rules, set to take effect in December of this year, were intended to make sure ISP’s handled your data with full transparency and clearly visible warnings (no fine text agreements) as well as protecting it via industry standard security. Proponents of the bill contend that the FCC overstepped its authority with rules that would be confusing and costly to enforce, arguing successfully that the FTC would be better suited to protect consumer and business interests in this area.
Why should this be important to me?
It’s important to understand a few things:
- Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo have been making money off your search history for years.
- ISP’s have probably been doing the same, but have likely been less forthcoming about it than the above companies.
- Your data, however mundane or irrelevant you believe it to be, is extremely valuable to every industry.
- In most cases, you can opt out of a vendor’s usage of your data, but you have to request it. You are opted in by default with most ISP’s and cellular carriers.
- Very few people in the US have more than two choices in internet service. It is essentially impossible to “switch” to a provider that operates with your best interests in mind.
- There are ways to secure your privacy despite your ISP’s practices, but they are fairly technical, not consumer friendly, and definitely not foolproof.
Have a look at how your senators and representatives voted on this measure. For the record, both California Senators and my House Representative voted “Nay” on this measure, but if your congress-critter’s view on this matter did not match yours, you should probably do something about that. Regardless of where you stand on the privacy issue, you should know that despite the FCC ruling last year, the rules they intended to enact never went into effect, and pending the President’s signature, likely never will, at least via the FCC’s hand as this joint measure also specifically forbids the FCC from attempting something like this again – also unlikely in the near future given the new Chair’s deregulation leanings.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net