Congress recently approved a bill to overturn the nation’s strongest internet privacy protections. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law this week.
Cornell University engineering professor Stephen Wicker has briefed the U.S. government on cyber security, information technology and privacy concerns and is the author of “Cellular Convergence and the Death of Privacy”. He says the removal of privacy protections from broadband service providers is the latest in a series of privacy and net neutrality reversals that combine to create a uniquely dangerous position for the information consumer.
Wicker says: “Broadband service providers see virtually everything that their customers do on the internet. This access to personal information is unparalleled, and the market for the information is immense. Consider that advertisers spent $100 billion delivering targeted advertising to mobile users in 2016. The impact of the fine-grained personal information that can now be made available by broadband service providers is hard to overestimate.
“These events put information consumers in a terrible position. Residential broadband service providers are often a monopoly, or at best, a duopoly in any given market. There is thus no market pressure to provide privacy protection, and consumers must either tolerate seeing their detailed surfing habits sold to the highest bidder or do without residential internet access altogether.
“When coupled with the ongoing elimination of the Obama-era net neutrality rules, broadband service providers have achieved an unprecedented level of power over consumers. The providers will have detailed information about their customers’ interests, finances, religion, medical concerns, and sexual orientation, while simultaneously controlling those customers’ access to information sources on the internet. There will be serious social and political consequences.”