Buying Consumers’ Web Browsing History From ISPs, Advertisers Are Now Free From Privacy Rules

By Nethani Palmani | Mar 28, 2017 11:24 AM EDT

Six trade groups in the advertising industry have thanked Republican lawmakers for introducing a legislation that has sought the end of privacy rules for Internet users. Otherwise, advertisers would have been prevented from buying consumers' Web browsing history from Internet service providers.

Sen. Jeff Flake and Rep. Marsha Blackburn introduced Congressional Review Act resolutions that would overturn the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) privacy rules for Internet service providers, according to ArsTechnica. The legislation which includes the end of privacy for Web browsing history would also prevent the FCC from issuing similar regulations in the future.

However, the FCC's new Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, is against the rules. He has halted the implementation of a data security component that required ISPs to take appropriate steps in protecting customers' information, especially Web browsing history from information theft and data breaches.

The more well-known portion of the rules requires ISPs to get opt-in consent from consumers before proceeding to share information obtained through Web browsing history with third parties. The portion is scheduled to take effect no earlier than December 4, 2017.

Instead, Republicans suggest the Federal Trade Commission should have authority over the privacy practices of ISPs. But overturning the existing privacy rules and approving the buying of Web browsing history would not by itself return authority to the FTC, and the FTC could be more lenient with ISPs than the FCC.

Association of National Advertisers Executive VP Dan Jaffe called the legislation one of the worst rules that have been introduced in some time, according to a MediaPost article. ISPs apparently no longer need opt-in consent from customers before sharing Web browsing history.

"Consumers will have no ability to stop Internet service providers from invading their privacy and selling sensitive information about their health, finances, and children to advertisers, insurers, data brokers or others," Sen. Edward Markey said. "They can profit off of this personal information, all without their affirmative consent."

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