FCC approves new rules to protect individual internet privacy rights

The Federal Communications Commission has approved new rules in favor of consumer protection and internet privacy rights, preventing internet providers from gathering unsanctioned data intelligence from individual internet usage.

Under the decision, ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon are barred from tracking or disseminating unauthorized data intelligence from their customers.

Although personal online data may be encrypted, broadband internet providers can still generate substantial amounts of private information based on individual internet usage patterns and online activity.  According to the FCC, the new ruling requires that ISPs obtain permission prior to collecting and sharing sensitive usage data, including geo-tagging data, financial and health information, social security numbers, web browsing history, app usage, and the content of personal communications.

“The problem is, there are currently no rules in place outlining how ISPs may use and share their customers’ personal information” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, “In fact, 91 percent of American adults say consumers have lost control over how their personal information is collected and used by companies.”

Internet privacy activists weighed in, viewing the decision as a landmark ruling for consumer protection.

“Just as telephone companies are not allowed to listen in to our calls or sell information about who we talk to, our internet providers shouldn’t be allowed to monitor our internet usage for profit” said ACLU Senior Policy Analyst Jay Stanley.  

The new ruling is limited to the actions of ISPs with handling information obtained via residential or mobile internet connections. Web companies such as Facebook and Google are instead regulated separately through guidelines provisioned by the Federal Trade Commission.