This week The House of Representatives voted to repeal FCC Rules which prevented Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) from selling your personal browsing information without your permission. Last week the repeal passed through the Senate as well. What the FCC previously imposed prevented ISP’s from being able to sell your information without first gaining your permission (opting-in) to do so, but also has many limitations. With the repeal of these rules there are essentially no limitations and companies DO NOT have to ask you, you must ask them to stop (opting-out). To add insult to injury, there will be rules put into place to forbid the FCC from putting in similar rules in the future. Awesome (insert sarcasm)! So why does this even matter?
Apps vs ISPs
Let’s be clear…right now anything you do on the internet can be tracked by SOMEONE. For instance, when you first sign-up for a Facebook or other social media accounts, there are a few agreements which you have to check a box for in order to use their services. The average person doesn’t read past the first sentence or two, and many more don’t read anything at all. It’s now in our nature to just check the box and keep it moving. When you do this, often times you are agreeing to many clauses that you have no idea about, and many that you could care less about if you did read them. Some of these clauses do not prevent you from using their apps or websites, while others limit what you’re able to do with their services. Despite this, you have the power of choice! The choice to allow the companies to access this information, and the choice to limit access to certain information. Either way there’s a give and take, especially to use any “free” services like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. I say “free” because it is free to you, but these companies make millions, if not billions from your “free” use of their services.
What’s the big deal?
Well now the ISP’s will have the same ability to sell the information they gather while you’re using these mostly free services, via the internet access that you already pay them for! Not only that, but unlike the individual apps and service providers, your ISP has access to ALL of your internet browsing history. When you use Facebook, Google and Snapchat do not have access to your browsing information. When you buy something on Amazon, Wal-Mart does not have any information on you visiting or purchasing anything from Amazon’s site. Your ISP does! Your ISP, whether your home internet or your mobile phone, has access to every app and website you visit which requires you to use the internet. The argument put forth for repealing these Privacy Rules is that companies like Google and Facebook have an “unfair” advantage over ISP’s since they are able to use and sell the information they gather. Take a look at your phone now and count how many apps you installed that did not already come on your phone…ok don’t count now, it will take you longer to count than it will to finish reading this! Those 100’s of apps most individuals have, especially millennials, only have access to the data you provide within those apps. They do not have access to each other, but your ISP has access to all of them!
What can I do?
In 2011 Verizon, often considered the leader in wireless communication, decided to stop offering unlimited data plans to new subscribers. If you were a previous subscriber to an unlimited data plan, you were unable to upgrade your phone the traditional way without losing access to your unlimited data. This drove many customers, including myself, to find other ways to get the latest and greatest phones without having to lose their “grandfathered” data plans.
For a few years, there were ways for Verizon customers to work around this limitation through Verizon itself! One way you could do this is, if you had a family plan with multiple lines that did not have unlimited data plans, you could rotate your upgrades. Like many customers with family plans in the past 5 to 10 years, not all used smartphones, or needed to have the latest and greatest phone out there. If you had Grandma on your plan with her uneducated phone (non-smartphone AKA Flip Phone), you could use her upgrade, and switch the upgraded phone to your unlimited data plan. In doing this, you could either give Grandma your old smartphone, or reactivate her uneducated phone to her line! This satisfied your need/want for a new smartphone, without losing your unlimited data. Win-win! What was even better is that you could reactivate that uneducated phone and not have to pay for the data plan that you initially added to the line in order to purchase the new smartphone. Well Verizon, and I’m sure others got hip to this work around! About one or two years ago, Verizon started to link your contract to the actual data plan itself, and not whether or not you had a smartphone active on the line. If you upgraded to a smartphone, you would have to pay that extra $30+ a month whether or not the smartphone was active on that specific line or not. What a bummer!
Akeem The Dream
I enjoy discussing and learning about technology, stocks, sports, and beating my wife at Dominoes! As I learn, I love to share with family and friends so that we can share our knowledge. Thanks for being apart of the journey!