By Angelina Liang
On April 3, President Donald Trump repealed the Internet privacy laws put in place by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). After these laws are removed, consumers’ information on the internet will be left unprotected. The damaging decision made by our government has serious consequences that citizens must remain wary of.
By using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), the House and Senate reached a “joint resolution of disapproval,” according to Consumerist writer, Kate Cox, to prohibit the FCC from replacing the old laws with new renditions.
Internet service provider (ISP) rules gave Americans control over their information online, forcing websites to ask for permission before accessing personal data. This gave consumers the chance to decline to release sensitive information to databases for advertising purposes.
National Public Radio stated, “the rules would have required explicit consent from consumers if sensitive data — like financial or health information, or browsing history — were to be shared or sold.”
Without ISP rules in place, broadband providers will be able to collect information from consumers including one’s family size, frequently visited shops, place of employment, and even health records without the knowledge of those being monitored.
“This is a gold mine of data,” Senator Bill Nelson stated in a Senate floor debate, “broadband providers want to be able to sell this information… and use [it] without providing transparency or being held accountable.”
For Americans, this action is a clear indication that the government’s priorities lie in making profit, rather than building a safe, secure society. The rules put in place by the FCC protected consumers from exploitation by big companies. Yet in the House and the Senate, both majority Republican, every member of Congress voted to repeal the ISP rules.
Selling information for profit is a clear violation of the right to privacy. As the rollback of Internet security begins to take its toll, Internet users are encouraged to use virtual private networks (VPN) to ensure secure browsing.
According to Business Insider, “A VPN essentially hides your internet activity from your internet provider, which means it has nothing to sell to third parties.”
Through encrypting internet history and bouncing around IP addresses that distort a user’s location, VPNs make tracking by Internet browsers and third parties more difficult. Privacy and personal information cannot be put up for sale, especially without consent. The decision supported by our legislative and executive branches is a violation of the Constitutional right to privacy and must be addressed to ensure that Americans can continue to live in security.