The rules and regulations of internet use as we know it have come to an end as the Broadband Consumer Privacy Proposal (BCPP) was reversed by a federal law passed this month.
Enacted by the President Barack Obama Administration in October 2016 and regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), The BCPP restricted Internet Service Providers (ISP) from selling information collected from customers without their expressed consent.
However, the proposal was not without its detractors. A number of politicians and policy influencers were opposed to the FCC authority over ISP business practices and felt their regulation would be best left in the hands of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Even FCC Chairman Ajit Pai shared that sentiment. The death of the BCPP is the supposed starting point of this transition, but an alternative for ensuring the online privacy of consumers has not been proposed by the FTC.
So, what does this mean? Information of internet usage, from the websites visited to the contents of personal e-mail accounts, can now be collected and sold to marketers or other entities without one's knowledge or consent. While data collection and distribution is nothing new, social media services have been collecting and selling certain account information in lieu of payment as part of their service agreements and as service providers, ISPs can monitor and parse through internet usage. However, the loss of the BCPP could take established practices and up the ante to the extreme.
Moreover, any data collected runs the risk of being extracted should a systems breach ever occur in a service providers network, which they are no longer obligated to notify users of due to the policy's demise.
There are methods at a consumer's disposal to prevent having their personal information distributed, but none of them is completely foolproof. Most ISPs allow their customers to opt-out of having their information collected, which can be implement over the phone or in account portals.
Then, there are virtual private networks (VPN) or the TOR network, both of which acts as gates between user activity and an ISP, but both have their own associated risks. Subscriptions to VPN services can be costly and they can also collect and store information for distribution or otherwise and while free to use, TOR can slow connections down and is unsecure in instances of selective targeting.