Last year, former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler enacted a rule to give empower consumers to protect their online privacy from their internet service provider (ISP). This rule prevented ISPs from collecting the browsing and internet usage habits of their paying customers and selling them off them without express permission from the customer as well as requiring more stringent security protections to safeguard customer information from unauthorized use or disclosure. It also required ISPs to report data breaches to the customer as well as law enforcement so that they might take action to mitigate the damage caused by such hacking.
On April 3rd, 2017, Donald Trump signed into law Public Law No: 115-22, a resolution striking down this FCC rule and preventing them from implementing a similar rule in the future. This resolution was quietly created and pushed through by Republicans in the House and Senate. It was not done to benefit their constituents or the American public, but to enrich themselves and large telecommunications corporations such as Comcast and AT&T.
A reporter for The Verge, T.C. Sottek, has compiled a list of all the Republican Senators and House Representatives who supported this resolution along with the amount of donations they received from the telecommunications industry . This staggering analysis demonstrates the "Pay to Play" environment endemic to Washington.
Websites, such as Facebook and Google, only receive information that you willingly share with them when you visit their sites. They allow you to use their services at no cost in exchange for selling ad space and some of the personal information that you provide. If you are uncomfortable with this arrangement, you can decline their service and use one of the numerous other alternatives instead.
On the other hand, you pay your ISP for access to the internet, and in all likelihood, you pay far more money for a far inferior service than individuals in other first world countries. You are also unlikely to have much of a choice in regards to which ISP you use. Thanks to another rule reversal by the new Republican FCC Chairman, the internet service monopoly is likely to continue unabated.
Additionally, your ISP used deep packet inspection to access to nearly every bit of data you transfer across the internet. This is the internet equivalent of the Post Office opening and reading every piece of mail you send and then sharing the contents with anyone who pays for it. Anything that you search for on the internet, any website you visit, any email you send, or any data sent by other applications on your computer or phone can potentially be sold by your ISP.
Over the years ISPs have used many nefarious tactics to generate additional income at the expense of their customers. Some would hijack any search you performed on the internet and
display search results from their advertising partners instead of legitimate results without ever notifying the customer. Other ISPs, such as Charter and AT&T, would snoop through their
users' internet traffic and insert ads onto pages that did not originally have any ads. ISPs have also used a myriad of different unseemly methods to track their customers' internet habits,
such as secretly installing tracking software to spy on users. All of these methods and more are set to make a resurgence under the Republican FCC.
Read more about this on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's website.
ISPs gathering and storing all of your personal information also has serious security implications. The data they collect is a treasure trove to hackers who would like nothing more than to use your extremely private information to blackmail you or to sell to identify thieves.
This is just the beginning of the Republican-led assault on the internet. The next major rule on the chopping block is Net Neutrality. You may remember Net Neutrality from a
couple years back when the former FCC Chairman proposed limiting Net Neutrality and millions of people sent in so many comments opposed to the proposed rule change that the FCC's comment
website went down. We won the fight that time, because the people in power cared enough about the will of the people to back down. This is no longer the case, because the current executive
and legislative branches do not care about average Americans and would rather try to ingratiate themselves with the large corporations that fund their campaigns.
Read more about Net Neutrality and learn why this is so important
The fight isn't over yet and there are still many things that you can do to help yourself and others
The first thing you should do is visit our Protect Yourself page and learn how to help protect your internet privacy from your ISP.
Then you can contact your state Representatives and Senators and tell them that you are appalled by their betrayal and insist that they support strong internet privacy protections and net neutrality.
In the upcoming midterm elections let the candidates from both parties know that you will only support them if they take a firm stance on implementing internet privacy protections and enforcing net neutrality. After the election, hold them to upholding any promises they make on these issues.
While it is unlikely that we will get a reversal of this policy nationwide under this administration, state legislatures have taken up the issue and have introduced laws banning ISPs from spying on customers in their states. Contact your state legistation representatives and let know them that you want them to introduce and support legislature protecting your privacy from your internet service provider.
Listed in the footer of this page are some links to organizations that are fighting for your rights, on and off the internet. Support them however you can, whether it be through donations, volunteering or joining the organization.