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How Net Neutrality affects your privacy too

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

15 February 2018

It feels like we’ve all been talking about Net Neutrality for years now—and in fact, we have. A year at least.

It was early 2017 when the Federal Communication Commission’s plans to kill the Net Neutrality rules became clear, and since then, privacy advocates across the web haven’t stopped talking about it. And guess what? We’re not going to stop now.

We cannot stop now, because we only have a little more time to try to save Net Neutrality. While some in the Senate battle to save Net Neutrality via the Congressional Review Act, more and more states are gathering together to file suits trying to save the FCC’s former rules.

Neither of these routes, however, is guaranteed to save the internet as we know it. Companies, individuals and politicians need to band together to ensure that their voices are heard. We all need to keep on fighting.

We thought it was time, then, just give you guys a little reminder that Net Neutrality isn’t just about fair access to the internet. It’s about your privacy too.

But how does Net Neutrality affect your privacy?

The FCC’s now abandoned rules also protected your privacy, in that they stopped internet service providers (ISPs) from using your personal information, app usage and browsing history in certain ways—namely, it would have stopped them from sharing it or selling it to a third party unless you, the user, had given express consent.

Now, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), under whose remit ISPs now fall, does not require a user to affirmatively opt-in to allow ISPs to engage in this sort of behaviour; FTC rules only state that a user has to be able to opt-out. Of course, many don’t realise this, and therefore don’t.

Even worse: a 2016 Court of Appeals decision actually means that the FTC can’t stop ISPs from selling your data at all—even if you opt out of this. The decision essentially means that if an ISP provides a “common carrier” service, such a mobile or fixed-line telephone service, the FTC can’t enforce its laws against any of its services. Most ISPs, of course, also offer phone service, putting them beyond the FTC’s rules.

So Net Neutrality isn’t just about keeping the internet a fair and open place. It’s about protecting your privacy and consumer rights, and if we lose the Net Neutrality rules, we lose a lot of our privacy protections too.

You can see why we’re still talking about it.

Currently there’s just one more vote needed in the Senate to push through the Congressional Review Act and move towards stopping the repeal of the Net Neutrality laws.

Visit Battle for the Net to write to Congress and make sure your voice is heard.

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