Source: American Civil Liberties Union
Congress has voted to reverse new FCC privacy protections that would have required internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T to seek your permission before sharing information about your browsing history, location history, contacts, and other personal information. Last Tuesday, President Trump signed the measure.
There are some limited steps we as individuals can still take to protect our data. But the truth is that none of them are adequate when the companies that run wires into our home are determined to spy on our use of their services. The best thing Americans can do is to exercise their rights as citizens in a democratic society through activism, voting, working to support and oppose candidates, etc. Right now, people need to make their displeasure heard, loud and clear. Check to see if your senators and representative voted to protect the interests of Big Telecom, or the interests of individuals who don’t want to be spied upon, profiled, bought and sold, and possibly discriminated against. If they did the former, voice your displeasure. Speak up online, support federal legislation to restore these protections, advocate for your state governments to take action to fill the gap left by Congress—and don’t let your memory of this travesty fade away, as telecom-supporting members of Congress are counting on you to do.
What are the limited steps that people can take to restore the privacy that ought to be their right? There is no perfect solution, but we have a few suggestions.
Despite the obliteration of the FCC’s privacy protections, most ISPs (for now) offer consumers limited opportunity to “opt out” of data sharing about their internet use, often referred to by the legal term “Customer Proprietary Network Information,” or CPNI. Although this step has definite limitations, it is something that every customer should take advantage of.
Unfortunately, the telecoms have every incentive to make it difficult for you to do so, and often do not present discoverable, meaningful options. This is a highly imperfect solution from a policy standpoint — because of the difficulty in opting out, because it throws the burden of protecting privacy onto the customers when the law clearly places it on carriers, and because it attempts to normalize surveillance by making surveillance the default when the default should be privacy.
Here are links to opt-out pages for the leading ISPs:
AT&T: Instructions on opting out of various uses of data are here, including this CPNI Restriction Request Form
CenturyLink: Instructions for opt-outs on marketing contacts as well as other practices are here.
Cox: Features a “Privacy…