We need strong online privacy protections

The recent repeal of privacy protections sets a dangerous precedent for how our privacy is handled

Privacy is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

It has been for some time now and with recent actions by our current administration, privacy will likely continue to be hard to find. As a student, I would like to see more privacy protections in place, to protect our information and ensure that we still have some security in the future. 

Internet service providers, or ISPs, are able to view our social security numbers and personal information. If they are unable to protect that information adequately then our identities could be vulnerable to hackers. 

There has been a recent uproar over a resolution passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump that has done away with rules meant to protect internet privacy.

These rules would have gone into effect later this year and were passed during the final days of the Obama administration. 

The rules were designed to protect our privacy by requiring ISPs to get consent from their customers before selling their data to advertisers. It also would have required them to further protect that data from hackers. 

The fact that these rules were dismantled effectively means that the current rules on internet privacy won’t change. In doing this, our current administration is emboldening ISPs by continuing to allow them to use our data as they please.

Companies such as Facebook can already share our information — but we agree to its usage in exchange for freely using their service. ISPs, however, are paid directly by us, which should entitle us to some form of privacy.

Despite these rules being dismantled, there are still some protections in place for internet privacy. The FCC can take action against an ISP who conducts unreasonable business practices or acts deceptively. 

These rules, however, do not guarantee that our online privacy and data will be fully protected.

Some people are even talking about usingVirtual Private Network in order to protect their privacy. VPNs shield your browsing data from your ISP so that you can browse the internet with full privacy.

They do, however, slow down your internet speed when in use and often cost a pretty penny. Certain companies such as Netflix don't work on a VPN, making this protected network somewhat problematic for some users. It is widely understood that VPNs should really only be used if online privacy is an absolute must.

Repealing these rules have caused panic online, with many believing their privacy has just been taken away. The reality is that we never really had that privacy in the first place.

“All of the privacy protections in it wouldn't have gone into force until this coming December anyway so its not like the consumers will actually see a big difference,” K Royal, vice president and assistant general counsel to CellTrust Corporation.

Some have pointed out that these rules were somewhat flawed as they only targeted ISPs and not other companies who collect data. While that may be true, that flaw could have been fixed by simply revising the rules to include more companies instead of killing the rules all together. 

To me, the scariest aspect of this whole ordeal is that the FCC is now prohibited from proposing similar rules to the ones that were just repealed. So, while things in terms of actual privacy may not have changed, this has stifled the FCC’s ability to protect us in the future.

As a student looking to the future, I would like to know that we can at least have the option to enforce rules to protect online privacy. The repeal of these rules hasn't really changed much, but it does indicate that the current administration cares more about the interests of ISPs than protecting our internet privacy. 


Reach the columnist at morganbwillis@gmail.com or follow @Morganwillis37 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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