What the Death of Broadband Privacy Rules Means

Now that both houses of Congress have voted to block Obama-era broadband privacy rules , what does that mean for you?

In the short term, not so much. The rules, which would have put tough restrictions on what companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T can do with information such as your internet history, hadn't yet gone into effect. So if President Donald Trump signs the measure, as the White House has indicated he will, the status quo will remain.

But the absence of clear privacy rules means that the companies supplying your internet service -- and who can see a great deal of what you do with it -- can continue to mine that information for use in their own advertising businesses. And consumer advocates worry that the companies will be an enticing target for hackers.

Here's how that could play out and what it means.

What Changes Now?

Not much, at least immediately. For now, phone and cable companies remain subject to federal law that imposes on broadband providers a "duty to protect the confidentiality" of customer information and restricts them from using some customer data without "approval."

But it doesn't spell out how companies must get permission, how they must protect your data, or whether and how they have to tell you if it's been hacked.

What the Rules Would Have Changed

Under the Federal Communications Commission's rules, Comcast and its ilk would have needed your permission before offering marketers a wealth of information about you, including health and financial details, your geographic location and lists of websites you've visited and apps you've used.

Republicans and industry officials complained that the browsing and app history restrictions would have unfairly burdened internet providers, since other companies such as Google and Facebook don't have to abide by them.

That's important because the biggest broadband companies want to build ad businesses...

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