The US Senate isn't very interested in our privacy. Yesterday, our elected representatives voted 50 to 48 to overturn rules set in place in October of last year that would've required ISPs to obtain our permission before selling our data to advertisers or anyone else. The vote was entirely along party lines.
"Every American should be alarmed by the very real violation of privacy that will result [from] the Republican roll-back of broadband privacy protections," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) following the vote.
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Jeff Cornyn (R-Texas) said that the rules "hurt job creators and stifle economic growth."
Well I don't do anything weird on the internet, so it's okay
We all you know you do weird stuff on the internet. But that doesn't matter, because that's really not even what they'd be after. With how much the internet factors into our lives, the information they could sell could be far reaching, including health and financial information, information about our children, and more.
"Your home broadband provider can know when you wake up each day," said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) during the debate before the vote. Whether it's the time we log on each morning, some Internet-of-Things-device we have in our home, when we go check the weather at the same time every day, that will all be in there. They can track when we access our health provider's web pages or go to Web M.D. to type in our symptoms.
Where we do and don't shop, what we shop for, when we shop could all be in there. What media we listen to and watch is there, too. And the second it becomes profitable to divulge this information, ISPs will be able to do it. Any data ISPs sell right now theoretically is faceless and anonymous, but without regulation, there's no promise that it would be.
The House has yet to vote on this measure, so we still have time to call our House reps to ask them to think twice. The list of possibilities above might seem alarmist, but none of it is fantastical should the roll-back pass all the potential roadblocks.
Sites like Facebook and Google can already do this, but an ISP is required to access the internet. Those sites aren't (despite what it might seem like). A VPN might be a more secure option, but VPNs, too, are unregulated and could sell that data off the same way.