Beware Of Internet Browsing, Online Privacy No More

Say goodbye to your private browsing history as Congress has now voted for internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T to have the freedom to sell your browsing history with or without your consent.

The House of Congress voted on Tuesday with 215 votes against 205 votes to reverse the regulations on privacy rules drafted by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, otherwise known as the FCC, to protect users and their private browsing history, InfoWorld reports. None of the Democrats voted for the reversion.

The headquarters of Federal Communications Commission
Entrance of the headquarters of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in Washington D.C. [Image by Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock]

Last year, the FCC drew up some measures to help consumers protect their online privacy. In the proposed regulations, internet service providers are being required to seek the consumers’ approval to utilize any data that has been gathered through the consumers’ use of the internet. But this was not well received by the ISPs, and they have asked for the FCC to stop passing the proposed rules.

ISP trade groups have written a letter to the commission stating that “consumer information should be protected based upon the sensitivity of the information to the consumer and how the information is used — not the type of business keeping it, how that business obtains it, or what regulatory agency has authority over it.”

Also, it can be noted that in the past, Republican commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly have argued that the regulations are very lenient on social networks, video providers, and other online services and just aim at internet service providers. Pai has said that the “FCC targets ISPs, and only ISPs, for regulation.” Commissioner O’Rielly also mentioned that these ISPs know what they are doing and should be allowed to help the consumers from their “poor privacy choices.”

Setting up online privacy settings
[Image by Daviles/Thinkstock]

Many people are afraid that this repeal will put their privacy at risk. Matt Stamper, director of security and risk management programs at Gartner, mentioned that one’s browsing history is tantamount to one’s online profile. And even with the use of virtual private networks, it is very hard to secure online privacy.

“Realistically, unless somebody is extraordinarily well-versed in technology, has a really good understanding of what different sites are doing and how they do it, it’s almost impossible for the average consumer to keep their details private.”

According to Nuala O’Connor, the president and CEO of a non-profit digital rights group Center for Democracy and Technology, the best way for concerned individuals who are not very familiar with the technicality is to always observe “digital privacy hygiene.” In other words, a person has to provide as little information as possible on the web. By doing so, it helps keep an individual’s online profile as private as possible.

“I was asked for my phone number when buying towels recently at a home store. They don’t need my phone number! Just sell me the towels! Companies need to do a better job about minimizing the data they’re collecting, but in the meantime, we can all be stingier about what we give out.”

Beware of surfing the net, no more privacy online
[Image by Carmen Murillo/iStock]

Also, lawmakers are going back and forth on their words have angered some people. Republicans, such as Senator Jeff Flake and House Speaker Paul Ryan, have proclaimed that they want to protect the privacy of everyone online. However, the senator has been the one to file for the repeal of the FCC’s regulation. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a lot to say about it.

“If you’re a U.S. lawmaker, protecting privacy doesn’t just mean avoiding collecting their data when they visit your website. It means standing up for users’ rights every day on Capitol Hill—the exact opposite of which is to roll back the strong privacy protections already on the books.”

The White House has signified that it is in favor of the repeal of the online privacy regulations. To pass it as a law, what’s needed now is the U.S. president’s signature.

[Featured Image by Christian Chan/iStock]