Internet Search Providers (ISPs) such as Verizon, Google and Comcast will be allowed to sell their customers’ sensitive information – including browsing history – under a new bill passed on Tuesday.
The bill was passed with by a margin of 10 votes, with 215 in favour, and 205 against, and reverses several Obama-era bills that limited the data that internet giants could monetise.
“If the bill becomes law, companies like Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, AT&T and Version will have free rein to hijack your searches, sell your data, and hammer you with unwanted advertisements,” Electronic Frontier Foundation legislative counsel Ernesto Falcon wrote in a recent blog post.
The sensitive information in question could include everything from app downloads, precise-geo locations, financial and medical data as well as browsing history. A White House blog published on Tuesday said:
“The rule requires ISPs to obtain affirmative ‘opt-in’ consent from consumers to use and share certain information, including app usage and web browsing history. It also allows ISPs to use and share other information, including email addresses and service tier information, unless a customer ‘opts-out’.”
The White House blog continues: “In doing so, the rule departs from the technology-neutral framework for online privacy administered by the Federal Trade Commission. This results in rules that apply very different regulatory regimes based on the identity of the online actor.”
This kind of monitoring and data-usage is exactly the sort of surveillance that Edward Snowden warned us about. Such moves are hardly surprising given Trump’s business acumen, but they’re sure to be very worrying to many Americans.
There are, however, ways that consumers can shield their internet behaviour and history from ISPs. People can use a VPN – virtual private network, and you can find 5 good ones here.