In 2016, under the Obama administration, the FCC approved a new privacy regulation that required internet service providers (ISPs) to get your explicit permission before selling that data to anyone else. In late March 2017 the US House of Representatives passed a resolution rolling back these FCC privacy regulations by a narrow vote of 215 to 205. The resolution passed the US Senate the week before and will now go to the desk of President Trump, who has said he intends to sign it. The implications of this reversal are not to be underestimated.
From a consumer perspective this means that ISP goliaths like Comcast, Time Warner and AT&T will be able to look at your browser history, take it and then sell that data to This will inevitably result in consumers being peppered with more unwanted, targeted ads.
The new, Trump appointed, FCC chairman Ajit Pai believes that privacy rules put ISPs at a disadvantage to other internet companies, like Google and Facebook, who are not restricted by the regulations. However, many argue that of course Google and Facebook have more lenient regulations because, unlike ISPs, they can’t see EVERYTHING that you do on the internet. If ISPs are allowed to sell your data, nothing you do online will be private—even if you use an incognito window.
Since cell phones are always connected now more than just your browser history will be at risk. ISPs will be able to track your location, if your GPS is enabled. They’ll be able to track who you speak with and how often you talk. They could even potentially track what you’re saying online. Removing this privacy restrictions does put your browser history at risk, but if you look at the big picture it’s much more than that.
If the internet-of-things trend continues to grow, as well it should, ISPs will steadily gain access to more and more data, which they will then be able to sell to advertisers. Any part of your life that is connected to the internet will be for sale.
It’s also important to note the geographical restrictions many consumers have when choosing an ISP. Depending on where you live, there might only be one ISP available, forcing you to choose between privacy and internet access.
The implications of the reversal of these privacy restrictions for ISPs are far reaching and not yet fully understood. Senator Ed Markey, of Massachusetts, said that the acronym ISPs should no longer stand for internet service provider but rather “invading subscriber policy” or “information sold for profit”.