FCC to vote on having internet providers ask you before sharing some of your data

If you get your broadband service from one of the usual providers such as Verizon, Time Warner or Comcast, your personal data is being shared quite a bit more than you may have realized. I don’t just mean your name, address, email and phone number here. They can track other information such as the physical location of your phone, purchases you make online and websites you visit. At present they can sell off that information to advertisers and business partners without you ever knowing it.

At the end of this month that may change. The FCC (which regulates these broadband providers) will vote on a new set of rules which would require them to obtain your permission before sharing some – though not all – of that data. (AT&T Live News)

A new privacy proposal unveiled Thursday will require broadband providers like Verizon and Comcast to get your permission before sharing with advertisers what you’ve been doing on your phone or computer.

The Federal Communication Commission has changed its broadband-privacy plan since it was initially proposed in March. The wireless and cable industries had complained that under the initial plan, they would be more heavily regulated than digital-ad behemoths like Google and Facebook, which are monitored by a different agency, the Federal Trade Commission.

I have a difficult time imagining anyone in the country who is a user of these services being opposed to having their provider ask before sharing that many details. I also have no trouble imagining politicians being opposed to the rule because these providers tend to be major contributors to campaigns with well heeled lobbyists. Not only does this question merit the attention of the public, but we might further ask why the FTC isn’t already considering a similar rule for sprawling websites like Google, Facebook and Twitter. How many times have you done a web search for a possible purchase you’re considering only to be inundated by advertisements for that product on every page you visit? Wouldn’t you like a bit more control over who gets your search history, the physical locations you visit and what you shop for?

The vote on this is coming up on the 27th of this month, oddly enough right before the election. In many matters of public interest this would be an ideal time for the public to exercise their influence, but the members of the FCC are not elected. They are appointed by the President, with each commissioner serving a five year term. The current board has two members with terms expiring in 2017, two in 2018 and one in 2020. While the appointments require Senate approval, this means that the next president will be seating an entire new commission. It’s true that only three of the members can be from the same party at any given time (there are three Democrats right now) but it’s not that difficult for a Democratic president to find some Republicans who are a bit more friendly to say the least.

Something to consider as you weigh your choices next month.

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