Yesterday, US Congress took the first step in dismantling broadband privacy rules passed under the Obama Administration.
The rules, passed on October 27 last year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would have required internet service providers to ask customers’ permission to collect, use and sell personal information.
Although the rules were meant to go into effect this year, that doesn’t look like it will be happening anymore.
Republicans now control The House and Senate and are looking to overturn the rules completely, using something called the Congressional Review Act.
This Act allows Congress to overturn the rules laid out by prior administrations with a simple vote. It is expected that The House will pass the resolution, which will then be handed to President Donald Trump so that he can sign it.
The Republicans’ restrictive actions have the alarmed politicians across the aisle who fear that without the rules telecommunication companies would have power to collect private data on people and sell sensitive information.
As reported by The New York Times, Democratic Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts said:
Senate Republicans just made it easier for Americans’ sensitive information about their health, finances and families to be used, shared and sold to the highest bidder without their permission.
Meanwhile, in Australia, the battle for the future of our internet continues. On the one hand, there is the whole NBN debacle and on the other the quiet yet steady encroachment of government upon our privacy rights.
Following on from data retention requirements introduced in 2015, the Telecommunication and Other Legislation Bill 2016 is currently in parliament, and a report is due on proceedings next month.
If that bill passes you should be worried.
The Guardian reports that the bill will give attorney general George Brandis and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization a “vice-like grip” over the Australian telecommunications industry.
This will include the power to shut down services deemed “prejudicial to security”, and force telecommunication companies to share details about their infrastructure, business decisions and customers.
Angela Daly, a research fellow at the Queensland University of Technology told The Guardian:
It [the bill] seems to have a very broad and vague scope ostensibly around cybersecurity. But it seems to give a lot of powers to the attorney general’s department to request information and to also ask the telecommunication companies to do or not do something. The implications for that could be very serious from an individual privacy perspective.
While the national conversation about the internet is mainly focused on speed, we should not forget that individual privacy is a key asset at stake.