It’s easy to feel that you have zero privacy or control over anything you do on the internet. Between mass surveillance programs, Google reading your emails, and Comcast sliding into your internet-browsing DMs, it’s a pretty bad time to be afraid of The Man.
But cherish it while it lasts, because Republican lawmakers are moving at speed to scrap one privacy-guarding rule that controls your ISP.
On Thursday, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona introduced a resolution that repeals regulations adopted by the Obama administration. Those rules held ISPs to a higher standard than other websites when it came to data collected from customers.
While websites you visit are free to track your behavior and sell that data to ad-targeting networks, ISPs are (currently) forced to get customer permission before doing the same. If Flake’s resolution passes, that safeguard will be abolished. The resolution has the backing of 34 other senators so far, so it seems likely to pass.
Under the new set of rules, ISPs will be able to collect location, financial, healthcare and browsing data from customers by default. There will likely still be a privacy opt-out, which will allow customers who want to trawl through a website to opt out of having data collected, but the changes will nonetheless affect the vast majority of consumers.
The resolution is backed by Ajit Pai, the new head of the FCC. Pai is a former lawyer for Verizon whose broad opinion seems to be that the FCC should stick to regulating spectrum and technical standards, rather than regulating the telecoms industry or advocating for consumers.
To that end, Pai has already closed investigations into wireless carriers opened under the Obama administration, killed regulations proposed or implemented by the Obama-era FCC, and doesn’t see net neutrality as important or beneficial.