The controversial congress bill that repeals federal privacy rules which needed internet service providers (ISPs) to obtain user’s permission before using their browsing data has been made official after US President Donald Trump signed it on Tuesday.
The prevalent privacy rules protected user data from being used by the ISPs for their own profit by selling it to a third party like advertisers.
Repealing that law has put an end to restrictions and endangered sensitive, private user data like location and browsing history which is now at the risk of being shared among corporations worldwide.
The strict FCC privacy rules were imposed on internet service providers like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and others last year by the Obama administration.
Repealing the privacy rules opens up doors for telecom giants to gain control of additional revenue streams encircling customer data — something ISPs have been trying to explore for long.
In a public statement, AT&T stated, “Our privacy protections are the same today as they were five months ago when the FCC rules were adopted. We will have the same protections the day after President Trump signs the CRA into law. The Congressional action had zero effect on the privacy protections afforded to consumers.”
Ps. Verizon and AT&T used to track you before. Read more here and here.
How Does it Affect Your Privacy?
Well, if your service provider hasn’t explicitly stated that they’re going to protect your privacy and not use your data for their own monetary welfare — chances of this actually happening are dim — then be wary of the following.
Expect Corporates Bidding Money to See What You Browse
While you can use various VPNs in order to avoid being tracked, it gets tricky to stay hidden from the very company which facilitates your internet experience — your internet service provider.
Repealing the FCC’s privacy law means that ISPs now have full authority to sell your browsing data, demographic as well as your location to any third party which offers them the most money for the information.
The $24 billion data business has been silently making waves in the background in the past and the only reason you are unaware of it is because it’s creepy and your ISPs don’t want you to freak out since your data helps them acquire more money.
Since the privacy law has been repealed, ISPs have been dealt an open hand to do as they wish with the data they acquire from the customers.
Expect ISPs Snooping in Browser and Serving Targeted Ads
You might have already been experiencing targeted ads in case you have a google account which is actively recording what you browse and serving relevant Google ads on whichever web page you visit.
Well, getting relevant ads served isn’t a bad thing now, is it? Not really, except the fact that your ISP will probably be building a profile of sorts on you to target these ads.
If the aforementioned things don’t convince you that this is bad, maybe knowing that this is nothing short of spying will.
Expect Tracking Cookies in Your Phone; The Ones That Don’t Go
Internet service providers have been found to insert super cookies on your phone which can not be deleted and tracks the websites you visit.
For the first two years since ISPs started this malicious practice, there was no way for customers to opt out of their traffic being tracked and these cookies even circumvented incognito modes or tracker-blocker like services.
These super cookies insert a unique identifier in all the unencrypted traffic from your device, and even if you cleared your browser’s cookies, these were undeletable, helping advertisers to track you all the time.
“Anyone, not just advertisers, could track you as you browsed the web. Even if you cleared your cookies, advertisers could use Verizon’s tracking header to resurrect them, which led to something called ‘zombie cookies’. If that doesn’t sound creepy, we don’t know what does,” Jeremy Gillula from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes.
In the past, mobile carriers have also been found to pre-install software on their devices which would track not only the user’s non-encrypted traffic but also the encrypted one.
Repealing FCC’s privacy rules opens up new avenues for mobile carriers to pump up their revenues and a creepy, nightmarish usage of sensitive private data of the users.