The U.S. Senate has voted along party lines to allow internet providers such as Comcast and AT&T to sell consumer’s personal information to advertisers without their consent.
"We are talking about taking privacy rights away from individuals if we suddenly eliminate this rule,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D) on the Senate floor. “This is a gold mine of data, the Holy Grail, so to speak.”
If approved by the House, internet providers can share consumers’ web browsing data, including history and financial, health and communications information without approval. That includes your location information.
“I know what bank you’re using,” said online security expert Alan Crowetz with InfoStream. “I know what time you’re on your bank, what bank you use and so forth.”
Even if the bill doesn’t pass, companies like Google and Facebook are already selling your data.
Crowetz said while limited, there are some ways to protect your online data. He recommends only using the private browsing option when surfing the web and disabling cookies in your browser.
“The reason (internet providers) want to use your data is to promote it to advertising companies,” Crowetz said.
Facebook and Google are currently held to different standards because they’re regulated by the Federal Trade Commission while internet providers are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.
“So there’s a discrepancy,” Crowetz said. "One division is allowing them to do some things and others are not letting them do those things. So, the idea with this is that they’re competing on a level playing field. Unfortunately what they’re competing for is our data.”
Crowetz said there are websites that can help you see what browsing data providers are able to gather from you:
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