Trump Signs Law Scrapping FCC Privacy Rules, Comcast Clarifies Position

Trump signs into law Senate Joint Resolution 34

After President Donald Trump signed into law Senate Joint Resolution 34, which “nullifies the Federal Communications Commission’s rule on privacy of customers of broadband and other telecommunications services,” some users have resorted to “polluting” their browser history with junk to mask their browsing habits.

The new law basically gives ISPs (Internet Service Providers) permission to legally track user habits so they can serve relevant ads. If you take that at face value, that’s actually a good thing. But from a privacy perspective, several groups have taken objection to it.

Meanwhile, Comcast last week published an article about their own stand on user privacy, stating:

“There has been a lot of misleading talk about how the congressional action this week to overturn the regulatory overreach of the prior FCC will now permit us to sell sensitive customer data without customers’ knowledge or consent.  This is just not true.  In fact, we have committed not to share our customers’ sensitive information (such as banking, children’s, and health information), unless we first obtain their affirmative, opt-in consent.”

In addition, Comcast also provides its users with the ability to opt out of receiving targeted ads.

It’s actually surprising that the new law would rake up so much antagonism. Internet companies have had access to our data for years, and the majority of them have freely used that data to sell us stuff and services. Most of them anonymize that data so users can’t be identified individually, but the practice of targeting advertising has been widely prevalent for years.

Facebook and Google, for example, cannot operate their massive ad platforms without the ability for advertisers to target their audiences – and that needs tons of user data. For decades, retailers have studied the shopping habits of their customers, which is why a supermarket is typically laid out the same way wherever in the world you go – impulse-buy items are invariably kept near the cash counter; groceries are always kept at a particular location; products are always arranged in a particular fashion. Think about it: when was the last time a supermarket chain told you it was watching your shopping patterns as you walked through its stores, and surreptitiously making changes just to make you buy more?

According to National Geographic:

“Grocery shopping, start to finish, is a cunningly orchestrated process. Every feature of the store—from floor plan and shelf layout to lighting, music, and ladies in aprons offering free sausages on sticks—is designed to lure us in, keep us there, and seduce us into spending money.”

We all know how true that is. So, if that much of research can be done on ‘foot shoppers’ for the purpose of selling more, then why not with online shoppers for basically the same reason?

What Internet companies are doing is no different than what major retailers have done for that many decades, and that ability is now extended to broadband operators. Of course, none of the larger companies ever share our personally identifiable information, such as our email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and so on. But all other user data is fair game.

Depending on where you stand, you may or may not support the resolution signed into law by President Trump. But, as an Internet user, you must understand that privacy only goes so far. The Internet is a public domain. If you’re on it, there are certain things you should be willing to sacrifice. Otherwise, it would be like walking down a busy street and expecting everyone to not look at you or notice the color of your tie or your dress.

We understand that this is a sensitive topic, so there’s every chance you’ll disagree with Trump’s view. In fact, we appear to be part of a very small minority at least where the public is concerned.

We welcome all non-toxic comments in the section below. Please share your thoughts on this with our other readers.

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