Internet Providers Need Permission to Share and Sell User Browsing Data

The U.S. FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has finalized new rules that force all Internet service providers (ISPs) to obtain the explicit permission from their users, before they can share or sell their browsing data.

FCC Makes ISPs Acquire Consent from Their Users Before Sharing or Selling Their Private Data

These providers have the capability to track what sites their customers visit, mobile location information, applications usage and other sensitive information that is gathered during the service contract.

The new FCC regulations don’t affect platforms like Facebook or Google because they are not internet providers. However we do not know if the policy will be an effective measure for privacy protection in a long-term scenario as other laws and regulation instructions may partially obstruct the FCC.

In a more practical way, this means that right now Internet providers can get the users permission by displaying a generic-looking screen with the typical privacy policy or license agreement with an “Agree” or “Disagree” buttons. As most users would probably not read the whole document, they would probably click on the “Agree” button and thus allow the ISPs to sell and share their private browsing metrics to third parties.

In brief here are the new regulations from the FCC:

  • All ISPs need to acquire consent from their customers before using or selling their sensitive data. This includes browsing history, app usage, location information and financial data. This applies to all third-parties for example advertisers and market research companies
  • Internet service providers do not need permission from their subscribers to share non-sensitive information – IP addresses, email addresses, service tiers or bandwidth usage. They must also create a way for them to opt out if they want to
  • ISPs don’t have to acquire permission to advertise other communications services

What Does This Mean For Users

To this date Internet service providers were free to track their users and share their private data. Practically all ISPs sell metrics to advertisers, market research agencies and other third parties. There are various effective ways of reducing this to a minimum, however there is no permanent solution and in theory (and in practice) users can still be traced and spied on.

However the new FCC regulations are a good bet that privacy protection just might get a little better in the USA and perhaps reach the levels of some of the EU member states that feature stricter control on how Internet users are protected.

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Author : Martin Beltov

Martin graduated with a degree in Publishing from Sofia University. As a cyber security enthusiast he enjoys writing about the latest threats and mechanisms of intrusion.

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