Ever since the new law that would help strengthen the privacy of the consumers in the US, the lobbyists for companies like Facebook, Google, and similar websites were trying to do whatever they can to stop it.
A bill was proposed last week by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, and the main requirement was to make websites and broadband providers ask for users’ consent before they could use their browsing and app history. So far, these providers and websites could have done whatever they wanted with the data of their users, and most of them simply sold them on to advertisers in order to make money. However, this new bill would demand that those same companies first get the approval of their users to use or sell the info that they collected.
Blackburn has called this a ‘BROWSER Act’, and its rules would be pretty similar to those that were supposed to be applied to ISPs by FCC. Those rules never got to see the light of day, thanks to the new US president and Republicans in the US Congress who stopped those rules from ever being implemented.
The advertising online is done by self-regulatory mechanisms. These work by letting people visit the websites that they’re interested in, and also give them the option to not get ads that are handpicked according to the users’ browsing history. If the website in question breaks the privacy promises given by the user, they could end up being punished by the FTC.
These websites don’t even need the opt-in consent from the users before they start using their history in order to better target them with ads. No such rules apply to the ISPs for now, but if the Blackburn’s bill is approved, some much stricter standards would be applied to ISPs as well as the websites.
As we mentioned before, lobbyists are doing whatever they can to stop this from happening. A statement was issued yesterday by the Internet Association, in which they say that the bill has a huge potential when it comes to turning the users’ online experience upside down.
Facebook and Google are among the founding members of the Internet Association, and those two dominate the advertising market. Other members also include companies like eBay, PayPal, Amazon, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter, Netflix, Dropbox, Spotify, and around thirty other companies.
This bill would make ISPs and websites face the same rules, true, but that means that states would also be prevented from imposing much stricter privacy-related rules. It’s believed that, in case that Congress doesn’t get involved, the websites would be obliged to further follow and respect these opt-out guidelines. Also, ISPs might end up being under the regulation by the FTC if the FCC manages to reclassify broadband providers.
For now, the lobbyists claim that they’ll track this proposal. As for the rest of us, we’ll simply have to wait and see what will happen.