As more of our work, purchases, and interactions take place online, the state of digital privacy becomes a growing concern. Web users worried about how their personal data is being used will soon be able to rest a little easier, thanks to new rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on October 27. As The Washington Post reports, the FCC imposed unprecedented regulations on internet providers this Thursday in a three-to-two vote.
The new rules forbid providers from using or sharing personal user data with third parties like advertisers unless explicit consent is given. This covers location data, search histories, and information mined from emails. If users agree to being tracked online, providers will be required to tell them what information is being collected and for what purpose. Users can expect to see updated privacy policies from websites, as well as possible incentives like discounts to persuade users to hand over the rights to their data.
The decision is troubling news for big companies like Verizon and AT&T, who might push back against regulations with legal action. But in a time when more and more web giants are relaxing their privacy standards, many are hailing the move as a victory for web users. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the commissioner who led the initiative, told The Washington Post, “It’s the consumers’ information. How it is used should be the consumers’ choice, not the choice of some corporate algorithm.”
The new regulations will only affect internet service providers (ISPs): Individual companies like Facebook and Google, which have both come under fire for their handling of user data, are free to proceed as usual. This discrepancy has been one of the major criticisms from the order's opponents, but Wheeler hasn’t expressed interest in tackling that part of the web anytime soon.
[h/t The Washington Post]
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the new rules as a "law." The story has been updated to correct this error.
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