On Monday, President Trump signed a bill passed by Congress that allows internet service providers to sell customers’ browsing history, thus jeopardizing consumer privacy in favor of profit.
Under the new law, customers have to contact their internet service providers and explicitly revoke permission to have their sensitive information shared, changing what should be an opt-in situation into an opt-out one.
The Federal Communications Commission rules, adopted in October 2016 by the Obama Administration, stated that internet service providers could not share sensitive information – such as social security numbers, browsing history, emails, location and bank-related information – without explicit permission from their customers.
Now, internet service providers would be able to sell customers’ personal information to marketers interested in providing highly targeted advertisements. This strategy is disturbing, and comes without the consent or awareness of internet users.
The gutting of the FCC regulations would enable internet service providers to equal Google and Facebook in the online advertising market, according to Washington Post. Those same websites that internet service providers would rival do not have to ask permission before tracking users’ frequent websites.
However, just because websites can reap information from their visitors, this does not mean the regulations over internet service providers should weaken.
If anything, consumers are already paranoid about how much of their private information is being sold to various companies and should be assured protection against further invasion of privacy. The new bill, however, goes exactly in the opposite direction.
Customers would have a much harder time switching internet service providers than they would websites, as many Americans only have a few broadband companies to choose from, according to the Washington Post.
Internet service providers also have access to more information than individual sites do. Therefore, internet service providers should be subject to stricter regulations — not broader.
The FCC would be prevented from issuing regulations like those overturned by this bill in the future, according to the Washington Post, and such a measure would weaken the regulatory power of the FCC over the internet.
If the FCC’s regulatory power is weakened, then its ability to protect internet users is hindered, directly compromising customers’ privacy.
In addition, the bill further endangers Americans by supporting the deregulation of internet service providers’ handling of consumers’ private information. President Trump and the Republican party prioritized the profits of internet service providers over the privacy of common citizens, and this should serve as a warning that our interests are not being put first.