AT&T, Comcast, Verizon to gain from Internet privacy rules signed by Trump

mobile-internet-charge-in-indiaBroadband providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications will gain from the new Internet privacy rules signed by US President Donald Trump.

The bill could eventually allow internet providers to sell information about their customers’ browsing habits, AFP reports.

The latest bill scraps a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) online privacy regulation issued in October 2016 to give consumers more control over how companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon share that information.

Internet companies like Google don’t have to ask their Internet users for permission before tracking what sites they visit.

“The president pledged to reverse this type of federal overreach in which bureaucrats in Washington take the interest of one group of companies over the interest of others,” picking the winners and losers, said White House press secretary Sean Spicer last week.

The AFP report said supporters of the broadband privacy measure argued that the company that sells an internet connection can see even more about consumers, such as every website they visit and whom they exchange emails with, information that would be particularly useful for advertisers and marketers.

Experts say federal law still requires broadband providers to protect customer information — but it doesn’t spell out how or what companies must do, which is what the online privacy rule aimed to do.

The absence of clear privacy rules means tech companies that supply internet service, and who can monitor how consumers use it, can continue to mine that information for use in their own advertising businesses. Consumer advocates also worry that the companies will be a rich target for hackers.

Ajit Pai, FCC chairman, has said he wanted to roll back the broadband privacy rules. Pai and other Republicans want a different federal agency, the Federal Trade Commission, to police privacy for both broadband companies like AT&T and internet companies like Google.

Broadband providers don’t fall under the trade commission’s jurisdiction, and advocates say that agency historically has been weaker than the communications commission.