While the headlines are dominated by the further misadventures of a clueless president who can’t keep his Twitter tweeter shut, his Republican colleagues in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Senate continue to destroy the internet. First, Trump’s man in the FCC has set out to wreck net neurality. Now, the Republican-dominated Senate has screwed over your internet privacy.
The FCC had already voted to stay some rules requiring broadband providers to take reasonable steps to protect the security of customer data. But that wasn’t good enough for the Republicans. They had to roll back earlier FCC rules requiring ISPs to ask your permission before selling your personal data to the highest bidder.
Republicans such as Sen. John Cornyn of Texas claim that the ISP privacy regulation were “burdensome rules that hurt more than they help.” My heart bleeds for AT&T, Comcast, Spectrum, Verizon and all those other poor companies
Now, you may think, “What’s so bad about my ISP selling my information? Everyone already knows I live at 742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield, Ore.” Well, Homer, it’s like this: The ISPs won’t be selling just your address, age and phone number.
As FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, two voices of sanity, said after the bill passed the Senate, it “creates a massive gap in consumer protection law as broadband and cable companies now have no discernible privacy requirements.”
Let me emphasize that last part: “NO discernible privacy requirements.”
What could the ISPs do with this? Well, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) looked at what they’ve already done — before their hands got smacked by the FCC ruler — and came up with the following list.
First, it goes without saying they will sell your data. That’s a given.
Next, they’ll hijack your searches. Oh, it will still look like you’re searching on Bing or Google, but your ISP will grab your search first and check to see if it has any advertisers that match your search. If they do, guess which companies will show up first on your search? Hint: It’s won’t be the one with the highest Google PageRank.
And as long as your ISP is snooping through your traffic, it will also record your web-browsing history and inject its ads into your web traffic. Gee, just what we always wanted: more ads. If those ads come with auto-play audio and video, heads will roll!
It also seems likely that ISPs will pre-install bloatware on your devices. Why not? AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have all done it before. Oh, and guess what those programs will do. Here’s a clue: The late, unlamented Carrier IQ logged pretty much everything you did on your smartphone.
Oh, boy, Big Brother on my phone. I always wanted this!
Last, but never least, you can expect ISPs to inject undetectable, undeletable tracking “super-cookies” in all of your web traffic. What? No one would ever do that, you say? Oh, my poor, poor friend. AT&T and Verizon already did this in 2014. But, between, you know, privacy regulations and public opinion, they both pulled back.
Today? With no ISP privacy rules, we’re left with just public opinion. Will the ISPs respond to that any better than the Senate did? For that matter, will the House of Representatives stand up for consumers and keep this dangerous bill off of the president’s desk? Will Trump decline to sign it? I think the answer to all those questions is no.
What does this assault on privacy mean for you? It means you need not worry about the NSA tracking your every online move. Your ISP will do it for it, for a fee of course.