RegulationSurveillance-IT

US ISPs Promise Not To Sell Browsing Histories Despite New Freedoms

Sam Pudwell joined Silicon UK as a reporter in December 2016. As well as being the resident Cloud aficionado, he covers areas such as cyber security, government IT and sports technology, with the aim of going to as many events as possible.

US ISPs give privacy advocates a boost despite changes to FCC regulations

America’s largest internet providers have promised that they will not sell their customer’s personal browsing histories, with the likes of Comcast, Verizon Communications and AT&T making the pledge.

The move came the day after the Trump administration successfully overturned a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule that required internet service providers (ISPs) to obtain permission before sharing the web browsing history of their customers.

It means ISPs will pretty much be free to do what they want with people’s personal and browsing information – including geolocation, financial and health data – and has been seen as major blow to consumers and privacy advocates.

Verizon

ISP pledge

But internet providers have bitten back against the rule changes amidst widespread concern that personal information will start being sold to the highest bidders.

Comcast’s chief privacy officer Gerard Lewis assured customers that the company has no intention of selling such information to third parties and will be altering its privacy policy to make this stance clearer.

“We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual web browsing history. We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so,” he said.

Verizon responded in a similar manner. Privacy officer Karen Zacharia wrote a blog post explaining the company’s two programmes that use customer browsing data, one which gives marketers access to “de-identified information” and another which “provides aggregate insights that might be useful for advertisers and other businesses.”

Other than that, the company is not planning to start selling the personal information it collects on its customers.

Back in the UK, privacy has become an equally as prevalent subject. For example, WhatsApp was recently forced to stop sharing data with parent company Facebook after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) demanded more transparency in how user data is collected and used.

British intelligence agencies have also been found guilty of illegally bulk collecting UK citizens’ phone and internet data and the so-called Snooper’s Charter continues to be a contentious issue.

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