The US FCC Passes New Privacy Regulations for Internet Providers, but It's Largely Symbolic

The Federal Communications Commission has enacted new rules to protect the privacy of consumers from the prying eyes of their internet service providers. The new rules outlaw the practice of selling consumer browsing and location data to third parties for advertising data or other analytics, without the consent of the consumer.

This update to the rulebook governing ISPs does not, however, completely bar the practice. It allows the consumer's information to be sold with their consent, which creates a loophole for ISPs and will allow them to roll provisions allowing the practice into the contracts that people must sign to use their internet services. In the United States, a landscape where monolithic internet providers have colluded to create monopolies or duopolies for themselves and fix prices, this just adds a paragraph to the end-user-license-agreement that will force consumers with no choices to adopt surveillance, or to simply not have internet service.

The tumors that undermine these rules are twofold.

There are no laws that regulate the length or complexity of end user license agreements, leaving consumers with many-page documents that never get read, written in complex legal language that actual attorneys have to reread multiple times to understand. This leads us to where we are now, which is a digital world where if we fully read all of the EULAs that we encounter, it would take our entire waking lives.

The oligopoly of internet service providers has limited choice so sharply, that ISPs can deliver shoddy performance, high prices, and arguably the worst customer service across all industries, and still maintain a large subscriber base. This shows that this critical utility (the Internet) needs more competition in order to diversify the market and give people choices. You need to be able to leave a bad internet provider for a good one.

These two factors combined leave this new FCC regulation toothless... another paragraph in our EULA that we don't read, while our freedoms and competitiveness on the internet continue to dwindle.


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