Redmond View

RIP Internet Privacy

With the rollback of FCC regulations, ISPs can now do what they want with your information.

The repeal of regulations imposed last year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aimed at giving users more control over how Internet service providers (ISPs) could use data collected from their PCs or mobile devices is a major setback for those who value their online privacy.

Following a narrow 215-205 vote by Congress, President Donald Trump last month signed a new law that repeals last year’s FCC rules, which had required ISPs to obtain permission from customers to gather browsing histories, locations, financial and health information with the intent of distributing targeted ads. The FCC’s new rules had not yet gone into effect but they were critical, given the precedent for concern.

For example, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) issued a reminder in a mid-March blog post that AT&T and Verizon in 2014 injected undetectable cookies that tracked all HTTP traffic (they have since stopped), and there’s a history of carriers installing URL recording software on phones, among a startling list of other infractions among providers.

Making matters worse with the new law, the legislation took advantage of what’s known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a rarely used means of letting Congress and a president overturn recently passed agency regulations and blocking that agency from reintroducing similar regulations.

There are certainly ways around those restrictions, but it requires the individual -- or for a business, an administrator -- to take action. An oft-recommended option is to use a VPN, though that incurs cost and can impact performance, which is certainly not an optimal or fair solution.

Users and administrators who find this law unacceptable must take matters into their own hands. It’s time for you to take control and not wait for an act of Congress.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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