Who's Watching When You Surf the Web?
Is it Google, Microsoft, the NSA, or that sketchy guy always parked in front of your house? Perhaps, but would you be surprised to learn that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can see almost EVERYTHING you and your family do online? And that they can legally compile and sell that valuable information to marketers? The FCC has proposed new rules to regulate how ISPs can use customers’ data for marketing and advertising purposes. If you think that's a darned good idea, read on...
FCC To Vote On ISP Privacy Rules
The full Commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal on March 31. If the Commission accepts Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal, a period of public comment will ensue before final rules are adopted.
The proposed rules would give customers more control over how ISPs may use data they collect about customers’ unencrypted online activity; that includes things like devices you connect to the Internet, the Web sites you visit, when you go online and how long you remain, the software you use, and more. Your ISP has access to everything about your Internet traffic that isn’t encrypted, enabling it to build a highly detailed dossier on you and your household that is very valuable to marketers.
The rules would require ISPs to get your permission before sharing or reselling your data to third parties. Affiliated business units of an ISP would have access to your data for marketing purposes unless you opt out of sharing it. Your ISP would not require your permission to use your data for the purpose of providing services you have ordered.
These rules are, essentially, the same as the ones that govern how telephone companies can use your data. That makes sense since the FCC has ruled that ISPs, like telcos, are common carriers under Part II of the Telecommunications Act of 1936.
ISPs would also be required to clearly and prominently disclose what data they collect on customers’ Internet activity and how it is used. Furthermore, ISPs would have to take “reasonable steps” to secure customer data against unauthorized disclosure or use.
"At a minimum," Wheeler wrote, "it would require broadband providers to adopt risk management practices; institute personnel training practices; adopt strong customer authentication requirements; to identify a senior manager responsible for data security; and take responsibility for use and protection of customer information when shared with third parties."
Will The Empire Strike Back?
We can expect the ISP industry to lobby against these “burdensome and unnecessary” rules. The mythical Mom-and-Pop broadband provider will be in dire jeopardy of going bankrupt if it must hire people and buy authentication gear to protect consumers’ privacy. Prices will go through the roof, they say, and customers won’t get anything more for their money.
But in reality, these baseline privacy rules will provide much-needed safeguards that won’t cost a lot to implement. They make sense and they should be enacted. I expect this proposal to be adopted by the full Commission on March 31, and shortly thereafter will come your opportunity to submit comments on the proposal to the FCC.
The last time I suggested submitting comments to the FCC, a number of readers encountered difficulties with the Commission’s online commenting system. That’s because I messed up and provided the link to the “Expert” page on the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS). I apologize for that inadvertent cruelty.
The ECFS is a two-tiered system that enables simple comments of up to several paragraphs, or a complex filing of uploaded documents, images, and so on. I assume my readers just want to “post a comment” and be done. To do so, go to the “Informal Comments” page and click on the proceeding that you wish to comment upon. Note that this proceeding on ISP privacy rules won’t be listed until April. I'll ping you again when it's time for public comment.
What's your opinion? Should ISPs be forced to disclose what data they are collecting? Or are you one of those who say "Who cares? I have nothing to hide." Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 25 Mar 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Who's Watching When You Surf the Web? (Posted: 25 Mar 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved