Congress voted last week to scrap rules which were set to limit the ability of internet service providers to collect and sell personal data. Had these rules had been allowed to take effect, ISPs would have been required to obtain consumer consent before doing that. They also regulated transparency and measures to preserve data security, However, at the writing of this post, the only thing keeping these regulations from being erased is President Trump’s signature, and the President has expressed his enthusiasm for endorsing Congress’ action.
So what can you do? Reading this might be a good place to start. And if you have technical chops, it’s a good time to set up your own VPN. This might prevent ISPs from gulping down your personal data — along with everyone else’s — like a blue whale skimming krill. But VPN isn’t invisibility camo.
Unfortunately, it’s a bit too late to call your Congressperson to ask them to vote one way or another, but you can always call (or show up in person, if you can manage it) to complain. The fight for net neutrality however, which is about equal access to the internet, is just getting underway for its latest round. Maybe now is the time to reach out to Washington and let your Congressperson know how you feel about it pay-for-play lanes on the internet.
Despite the purported benefits of deregulation, pessimists — or “realists,” as I like to call them, for I am one of them — will recall the tendency of humans, individually and corporately, to act selfishly and short-sightedly. The problem is not that a lesser degree of regulation is bad. That is up for debate. However, no regulation at all, considering the FCC and FTC would essentially be unable to police this landscape , is very bad. That has been a result of this episode. Regulations do not exist to govern people and organizations at their best, but to guard against and provide penalties for people and organizations that abuse trust and power.
Perhaps like Minnesota, other states will step in and legislate rules protecting consumer privacy. Until then, despite the protestations of ISPs that they won’t participate in unbridled data collection, don’t be surprised if you see more ads following you around the web these days.