Donald Trump’s legislative achievements during his first months in office have been somewhat light, but here’s one that should trouble everyone on the internet.
As promised, the president signed a bill Monday repealing a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirement that your internet service provider ask permission before tracking and selling your data.
The privacy changes enacted during the Obama Administration were so young they had not yet come into effect.
As reported by The Hill, the tool allowing the president to overturn a recently passed piece of agency regulation also means the agency cannot introduce similar rules in the future.
In other words: We’re going to be stuck with this for some time.
The repeal means the cable company, or whoever provides your internet connection, can lawfully track your online activities and sell that information — valuable to advertisers and many others — to companies without letting you know.
This doesn’t just include browser history — it could be geolocation data or the personal details you enter into an online form.
Trump has signed an inane bill rolling back FCC privacy rules for ISPs. I'm doubtful he understands the privacy implications…
— Amy Webb (@amywebb) April 4, 2017
Trump has signed the FCC privacy rule repeal. We enter a new era online.
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) April 4, 2017
Trump reverses FCC rule that Internet service providers get permission before using customer financial info, browsing history, app usage etc pic.twitter.com/LGCauOf39n
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) April 3, 2017
Opposed by Democrats and privacy advocates, the resolution had already passed through the Senate and the House, requiring only Trump’s signature to formalize the change.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation was one of many groups to fight against the repeal, and in a blog post Monday, policy analyst Kate Tummarello said “Internet users are worse off for it.”
“We urge state lawmakers and technology providers to look for ways to shore up individual privacy until Congress is ready to listen to the consumers who don’t want to trade away their basic privacy rights in order to access the Internet,” she wrote.
“Internet users are worse off for it”
After a deluge of bad press for their part in pushing the repeal, telecommunication giants Verizon, AT&T and Comcast published blogposts in late March accusing critics of “ignoring the facts” and arguing the FCC rules were unnecessarily burdensome.
“We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual web browsing history. We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so,” wrote Gerard Lewis, chief privacy officer at Comcast in public policy.
“Consumers should be skeptical about the ISP’s promises,” the EFF’s Karen Gullo.
“As we have pointed out, they have already tried many of the practices — including hijacking your searches — that they are now allowed to do thanks to the party-line vote in Congress.”