If you spent any time on social media this week ,you probably saw a lot of doom and gloom about a Congressional vote involving the internet and privacy. Headlines like Congress to US citizens: Want online privacy? Pay up! and ISPs and FCC Chair Ajit Pai celebrate death of online privacy rules, intended to scare readers, suggest that you just lost your online privacy because of this vote. The problem is, you didn't actually lose anything. Let me explain.
The FCC rules that are being referred to don't actually exist. The FCC does not technically have the authority to issue regulations over ISPs, as that falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission instead. Despite their lack of jurisdiction, the FCC drafted regulations that they had planned to try and enforce sometime in 2017. However, that implementation had been postponed indefinitely. FCC Chair Ajit Pai wants the proper organization to be in charge, and argued as such.
So, today, the way internet privacy rules work is exactly the same as it was last week. ISP have the ability to use anonymized data for any intent they would like. What will happen in the near future will be the same as what has happened in the recent past.
Here is where the issue with the idea of restricting ISPs from using their data come in: other internet companies have the ability to do the exact same thing without any restrictions. Why would the FCC want to prevent Comcast from selling browsing data and statistics, while allowing Google to do the exact same thing, and potentially with more accuracy. Pai said, following the vote,
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission pushed through, on a party-line vote, privacy regulations designed to benefit one group of favored companies over another group of disfavored companies. Appropriately, Congress has passed a resolution to reject this approach of picking winners and losers before it takes effect.
Why is it that the FCC, internet publications and people on social media got worried about their privacy when it comes to regulations that don't actually exist, but have no concern about using Chrome, which gives Google the exact same information, and was not going to be restricted at all by these imaginary regulations. If people are actually concerned about their privacy, then Facebook, Twitter, Google, Bing and more wouldn't exist today.