Yes, they are watching you.
However much you hate your cable company, know that they love you—and all the money you give them. Now, they’ve got another reason to love you, courtesy of the U.S. Senate, and the vote they just finished: Whoever provides your internet access will now be free to track what you look at online, and then, sell that information to other companies.
By a vote of 50-48, the U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a resolution that repealed a requirement put in place by the Federal Communications Commission forcing internet service providers (like: cable companies, or the companies that you pay for internet access) to obtain permission from their consumers before tracking and selling their data.
That rule, which had yet to go into effect, represented one of the biggest moves by the FCC (the government’s primary media regulator) to protect consumers with respect to the data that they collect online.
"With today’s vote, Senate Republicans have just made it easier for American’s sensitive information about their health, finances and families to be used, shared, and sold to the highest bidder without their permission," said Sen. Edward Markey (D) in a statement following the vote.
This is accurate -> Last chance to stop broadband companies from selling your full online record without permission. https://t.co/6FoFkaoGlY pic.twitter.com/uj129Iszxu
— Jason Kint (@jason_kint) March 22, 2017
Now, your internet provider will be able to track where you go online, what you look at, and a host of other things, and then sell that information to other companies — and they won’t need to ask for your permission or notify that they are doing this.
"The Senate just gave big broadband companies license to sell Americans personal information to the highest bidder," said Gigi Sohn, a former FCC counselor in the Obama administration and now a government fellow at the Open Society Foundations. "The American people will undoubtedly remember who took away their broadband privacy protections at the behest of Comcast, AT&T and Charter."
The resolution had been aggressively opposed by Democrats as well as privacy and consumer advocates. Internet service providers had argued that forcing them to ask permission was an unfair burden. Republicans have generally sought to rein in much of the FCC’s power, as well as a variety of regulations put in place under the Obama administration—including net neutrality regulations.
Debate over the bill didn’t break out much beyond internet-centric organizations, mostly lost amid the ongoing news about the Trump administration.
Consumer data, particularly the kind generated by internet traffic, has become incredibly valuable thanks to the emergence of companies that can use this information to create highly targeted advertising. Google and Facebook in particular have emerged as leaders in digital advertising thanks to their massive data libraries.