The Verge explained in an article on Wednesday how despite Congress’ decision to reverse the FCC’s internet privacy rules, no one will be able to purchase the browsing data of individuals any time soon.
“To be clear, you can’t do this,” declared The Verge’s Russell Brandom on the topic of purchasing the browsing history of politicians who passed the FCC rollback. “Just because carriers are allowed to market against data doesn’t mean they’re allowed to sell individual web histories. The campaigns seem well-intentioned, but that’s just not how it works.”
“In fact, what the campaigns describe would be illegal no matter what the FCC does. The Telecommunications Act explicitly prohibits the sharing of ‘individually identifiable’ customer information except under very specific circumstances,” Brandom explained. “It’s much more permissive when it comes to ‘aggregate’ customer information, which is where things get squishier and the FCC rules become more important. We could argue all day about whether a targeted ad is individually identifiable or not, but if you’re paying Verizon to find out which sites Paul Ryan visited last month, that’s pretty clearly individual information, and pretty clearly illegal to sell.”
“If you want to get really clever, the Wiretap Act also makes it illegal to divulge the contents of electronic communications without the parties’ consent, which arguably includes browsing history,” he continued.
Brandom went on to add that “None of this means that the recent privacy rollback isn’t a problem,” claiming “It really will encourage more data collection and more aggressive ad targeting by service providers, and leave customers with few ways to escape.”
“Aggregate data can still be invasive, as modern web advertising demonstrates over and over,” he concluded, adding “It’s a fight worth having! But that’s a far cry from buying individual web histories.”