How the Congressional Rule Act Affects Your Online Privacy

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How the Congressional Rule Act Affects Your Online Privacy

How the Congressional Rule Act Affects Your Online Privacy

The Internet has always been a place of safety, anonymity, and relative freedom to do whatever you want, unimpinged by the impacts that your behavior might have on your ‘real’ life. That’s one of the reasons why the Internet became so popular, skyrocketing from a service used by a few thousand hardcore geeks in the early 90s to a worldwide phenomenon that most of the Western world walks around with in our pockets.

In October of 2016, Congress voted in new FCC regulations which required that Internet Service Providers or ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T get individual customer permission in order to sell off personal browsing information to advertisers. This regulation “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services”  is designed to ensure that ISPs cannot use your data without asking, cannot change how they are collecting or using your information without updating you, and that they cannot deny you service based on your refusal to allow them to use your data.

However, this regulation is now going through a CRA (Congressional Review Act) to disprove the law, which passed Senate on March 23rd, passed House on March 28th, and was presented to the president on March 30th. In short, the regulation is all but disproved, which means that you no longer have that protection.

What does this mean for you? And how can you protect yourself against it?

In this series, we will discuss how Federal law in the USA impacts your privacy and safety online, and how you can take steps to protect yourself and to maintain your privacy.

What It Means For You?

Disproving the Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services will in effect allow ISPs to use your data for advertising and to sell it to advertisers.

However, that’s not as scary as you might think. First, this regulation has only been in place since January 3rd of 2017. You’ve had this protection for less than 3 months – which means that the changes you see won’t be noticeable. Considering that many of the important implications of the regulation didn’t go into effect until March 2nd,  most of us have had the sheltering umbrella of ‘privacy’ provided by the regulation for less than 30 days.

The law also primarily only ensured that you had to opt-in to allow ISPs to use your data. For the most part, ISPs have been using and selling data for decades. But, it’s not on an individual basis. Most don’t have the technology to sort thorugh individual browser data, and it isn’t valuable enough to make the sale worthwhile to the ISP, who would most likely lose money on sorting individual browser data and sharing it to advertisers, who also couldn’t afford purchases of that magnitude.

So, how do they use your browser data? In most cases, a computer algorithm determines which websites people from a certain location visit most often, which search terms they use, and what they are buying. This data is averaged out over a city, a county, or even a state, to provide advertisers with demographic data on search terms, advertising phrases, and products they should be using. Yes, it’s intrusive, but no one is looking at your exact search terms and no one is paying attention to you on an individual level.

Of course, this might change if ISPs like Comcast start their own advertising networks, which would allow them to utilize data more easily, similarly to how Facebook operates. (Facebook pays attention to your individual data and tracks your search terms and website visits to provide a tailored ad experience).

The good news is that the CRA of the privacy act will not affect you any more than using Google or Facebook would. The bad news is that your data is already being collected and sold through anonymized profiles, which companies often use to create targeted personal ads towards a ‘demographic’ of people who like certain things, who search for certain keywords, or who live in a certain area and look for their product. This kind of advertising relies on the companies paying for the data to have your browsing information.

However, you can take steps to protect yourself from it. Going forward, we will discuss your privacy options, the pros and cons of each, and how to implement them to best protect yourself and your privacy online.

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About The Author
Proliferate writer, sesquipedalian, techie, Apple fangirl (don't judge),tree hugger, yogi, tea drinker, zombie hunter. Into philotherianism & philomathy. Love my job. Visit me on Google +

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