New Bill Allows Selling of Personal Information

Companies routinely sell user’s information to
advertisers. (Photo: Freddy Velazquez)

It has now become more difficult to protect your privacy online when, in late March, the House of Representatives approved a bill that allows internet services providers (ISPs) to sell your personal information.

President Trump signed the internet privacy repeal on April 3, rolling back the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) rule limiting how ISPs could use and share customers’ data.

Browsing history will soon be up for grabs to those willing to pay and can give advertisers a very detailed profile of who you are as a person, whether you want them to have that information or not.

“I think it’s an invasion of privacy but at the same time people don’t read the fine print before they sign their lives away,” said WCC student Felecia McKenzie.

To an extent, many people already freely share their information online—social media sites such as Facebook use personal data to create targeted ads in an almost disturbingly quick amount of time. We’ve already been living with these breaches of privacy that have become more and more commonplace.

Until now, not many people have seemed to care.

The FCC’s ruling to protect users’ information never had a chance to be implemented.

“They’ve already been sharing our information for years among other things. Our socials our credit card information, they share these things with other companies as far as I know because I’m on top of current events,” McKenzie said.

Individuals have made it clear that when the ruling goes into effect they will buy the information of Congress members. Go Fund Me campaigns from internet privacy advocates have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to reveal politicians’ internet browsing history.

Matt Temkin, creator of Cards Against Humanity, wrote on his Twitter, “If this shit passes I will buy the browser history of every congressman and congressional aide and publish it.”

Despite these good intentions, The Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits the sharing of identifiable customer service information without the approval of the individual. What this means is that information cannot be bought directly related to an individual and certainly cannot be requested from ISPs.

The efforts to get back at Congress by buying their information from providers themselves is in reality nothing but empty threats.

Customers of ISPs can take certain steps to protect their information through services like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and by getting in contact with their ISPs to find out how they can retain their anonymity. Chances are if you haven’t signed up or opted out of tracking services your information is already out there.

“I don’t think it’s gonna change because it’s big business sharing people’s information,” McKenzie said.

It may not be comforting to think that a profile of you is being shared by companies, but they aren’t out to take you to dinner or get to know you. Companies are really more interested in you as a paycheck.

With the increase and the availability of personal data, online privacy should be respected—but time and time again profit takes priority and it looks like that’s not going to change any time soon.

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