The vote to repeal FCC broadband privacy controls is a sad day for consumers, businesses and the United States. While the rest of the world is increasingly recognizing privacy as a basic human right, Congress has failed the U.S. and society as a whole. Not unlike global warming and pollution, the long-term impact of giving our data to Internet service providers and wireless carriers will be significant. Trade groups and politicians talk about role of self-regulation, stewardship and ethical data practices, but at the end of the day our elected officials failed us and our families.
We have lost sight of the impact to society and our values. It is important to recognize that broadband providers have a unique line of sight into our personal lives. When this data appended with our TV habits and physical address, the resulting "dossier of our lives" is redefining the definition of big data. It is no wonder the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework regulation continues to be debated and the importance of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is being heightened.
In an era of the U.S. government focusing on alleged wiretaps and cyber spying, we are now effectively handing this same data over to broadband providers to sell and share as they like. They (internet service providers and wireless carriers), have realized the benefits of receiving spectrum licenses, and easements and “public right of way” for their cable. With the repeal of these rules Congress gave them a “right of way” to our data. The result is consumers are paying monthly for their internet and now will be paying in perpetuity with their family’s data.
The argument that all businesses should be treated the same does not hold water. Unlike choosing to use Google search or Facebook, consumers have little choice on who their ISPs is and the barriers (i.e. costs) to change providers can be significant. Comparing their practices to websites is like comparing apples to oranges.
What is next? Now is the time for ISPs and carriers to show leadership and make consumer privacy part of the value proposition versus driving profits to the bottom line. President Trump now is the time to put consumers first versus the interest of those lurking in the DC swamp. In the meantime watch where you browse and what you put in email as your data may now be offered to the highest bidder.