29 Mar Changes to Internet Privacy Protection Laws
Changes to Internet Privacy Protection Laws: What does this mean for YOU?
The House of Representatives voted Tuesday, March 28th to repeal Internet privacy protections that were approved by the Federal Communications Commission in the final days of the Obama administration.
The Senate voted along party lines to undo the rules for internet privacy last week. The rules, which had not yet gone into effect, would have required Internet service providers to get your permission before collecting and sharing your data. The providers have data on your web browsing history, app usage and geo-location. Providers would also have been required to notify customers about the types of information collected and shared.
Opponents of the internet privacy rules argued it would place an undue burden on broadband providers while leaving large Internet companies like Facebook and Google free to collect user data without asking permission.
The repeal was strongly backed by major providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast, who argued that ISPs were being subject to stricter privacy laws than companies like Google or Facebook.
The law, passed last October days before President Trump was elected, and due to take effect by the end of this year, would have forced ISPs to get clear permission from users to share personal data such as “precise geo-location, financial information, health information, children’s information, social security numbers, web browsing history, app usage history and the content of communications.
Some argue that this internet privacy law repeal will level the playing field for an increasingly anti-competitive market.
The bottom line?
US internet service providers will soon no longer need consent from users to share browsing history with marketers and other third parties.
That being said, the truth of the matter is that we are giving away our personal information already. Using a smartphone is like carrying a tracking device around and even visiting a website to just look at information provides clues about our lifestyle to those tracking our behavior. And, it’s highly unlikely that we will never need to buy another thing online or check our bank account online again.
However, there are some practical steps to take in helping to protect your information that are just good e-lifestyle habits.
- Use unique passwords on all your accounts. No pet’s names, no birthdays. Use long passwords with symbols— and a different one on everything.
- Use two-factor authentication (meaning the website or tool will send you a text to double-check that it’s really you are logging on).
- Download a password manager if you need; it takes some setting up, but pays off in peace-of-mind.
- Go through the apps on your phone, and see if they really need access to your microphone, contacts, or location data.
No one is ever 100% not at risk and even with privacy laws in place, there is still risk.
While this repeal may make it more difficult for consumers, (and unfortunately shows a lack of consumer concern by lawmakers) it really does not make the risk much greater. It will, however, line the pockets of larger companies and ISPs, and allow more unwanted solicitous communications and spam.