This week, Congress struck a huge blow to personal privacy. As CNN reports, on Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted to reverse Obama-era internet privacy protections. The bill isn't quite law yet — it still has to go to Donald Trump's desk, but the president is a strong supporter and will almost definitely sign it into law.
The protections were approved by the FTC in the final days of the Obama administration, and hadn't gone into effect yet, but would have forced internet service providers to get permission from consumers before sharing personal data about things like web browsing history, geo location, and app usage. And yes, that means that now they won't have to get your permission before sharing that slew of very private information about your life.
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This is hugely problematic, of course. As Dane Jasper, cofounder and CEO of Sonic, the largest independent internet service provider in Northern California, noted on Mashable, the internet is an integral part of modern life. It's not as though users who don't want their information shared can just opt out of using the internet and apps—at least not without making some significant and potentially costly and isolating lifestyle choices.
"If your telephone company was advocating for the right to automatically monitor your audio telephone calls and sell what they hear, would this make you comfortable about using your phone? Of course not; it is a ridiculous concept," Jasper writes. "For carriers to advocate for the ability to monitor your use of the internet is, frankly, just as creepy."
Internet service providers want access to and permission to share this information for obvious reasons—so they can put it in the hands of advertisers who will use it to create targeted ads. But the implications go beyond connecting advertisers with their ideal consumer base. The right to privacy is so fundamental that the founders included it in the fourth amendment. When our internet lives cease to be private, our entire lives effectively cease to be private, and that's a huge problem.