Another reason for local public internet provision

Very few of us are privileged enough to #DeleteTheInternet.  Thanks to Trump and the Republicans, providers are allowed to monitor customers’ behaviour and, without their permission, sell that data for targeted ads

Among the Obama administration’s last major policy reforms was implementing Federal Communications Commission rules limiting how internet providers use and sell customer data, and giving customers more control over how personal information like browsing habits, app usage history, location data and social security numbers may be used by service providers. These rules would have prevented ISPs from carelessly exposing data to third parties, as Facebook did with Cambridge Analytica.

Last March, Republicans and President Trump overturned these rules, allowing providers like Verizon and Comcast to monitor their customers’ behaviour online and, without their permission, sell that data for targeted ads. In other words, instead of restricting the dangerous and exploitative market of consumer data, Congress has expanded that market to include internet service providers.

Several states, including Massachusetts, have introduced legislation to reinstate – and in some cases, extend – the Obama-era privacy protections. And, unlike in the case of state efforts to restore net neutrality, privacy protections like Massachusetts’ senate bill 2062 are far more likely to withstand federal preemption challenges and provide enforceable state protections for internet users’ data.

The past few weeks have shown us that the stakes for establishing meaningful limits to corporate surveillance couldn’t be higher. By encouraging state lawmakers to step in to protect internet privacy and limit the use of our data by service providers, we can take a first step toward an internet where users aren’t forced to choose between data exploitation and the ability to live their digital lives.

  • Salome Viljoen is a fellow in the Privacy Initiatives Project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society