Congress votes to eliminate privacy rules for internet providers

New Jersey's five Republican congressman have voted in favor of a resolution that allows internet providers to sell your browsing habits without your permission. The federal regulatory body's newly appointed chairman Ajit Pai, an Indian American, welcomed the vote and promised to work with another federal regulatory body to protect consumers' online privacy.

ISPs collect data such as web browsing history, app usage and location through our internet usage.

The final decision will now rest with President Donald Trump, after a week in which he faced rejection from a Republican-controlled Congress over his proposals for healthcare reform.

The White House said it "strongly supports" the repeal.

Michael Capuano, a Democratic Representative, took it one step further. "That's information that you as a consumer should be in control of".

"You better believe the big ISP's already have teams & plans in place to capitalize on this ruling", Erica Baker, an engineer at Slack, wrote on Twitter.

People are not even aware of how and when their data is being collected and shared with advertisers. People using the internet don't have to use Google or Facebook. But switching providers is often hard, as is hiding your Internet activity from your Internet provider.

Controlling the information your ISP can track is a hard task even for more sophisticated internet users, notes Rachel Greenstadt, who runs Drexel University's Privacy, Security, and Automation Laboratory.

Swire recommends using pop-up blockers, anti-tracking software like Tor, or Privacy Badger, and a virtual private network. A VPN provider even stated since the Senate vote there has been a sharp increase in interest for VPNs. Naturally this is a huge privacy nightmare, but the good news is that the major ISPs in the USA, such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon have since reassured their customers that this will not be the case. They have bet billions on content, including AT&T's pending acquisition of Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.

Jules Polonetsky, a privacy expert and CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum, said in an interview with NPR that the FTC "has generally been the lead privacy enforcer, and I think has been very aggressive at doing so".

According to The Washington Post, online advertising is now an $83 billion per year business that is dominated by Google and Facebook. "I think of it as a setback".

  • Arturo Norris