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Internet Providers Are Close to Selling Your Browsing History to Everyone

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Internet providers are one step closer to harvesting your personal data and selling it to the highest bidder without permission.

In a tightly contested Senate vote on Thursday, FCC privacy regulations passed during the Obama presidency were overturned. This means telecoms giants like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon might soon start sharing your web browsing history and geo-location data to target ads -- and there'll be no legal mandate for them to ask you for permission.

After the narrow vote won by a 50-48 Republican majority, internet providers and their advocates were jubilant:

"We support this step towards reversing the FCC's misguided approach and look forward to restoring a consistent approach to online privacy protection that consumers want and deserve," said a statement from the Internet and Television Association.

The vote dismantles an Obama-era FCC rule, passed last October, that ensures ISPs ask for permission before selling consumer data. The regulations were supposed to take effect by December 2017 at the earliest. But because the Senate voted it down, everyone with an internet connection is liable to have their healthcare, financial and family details shared and even sold at the behest of their provider to better serve ads. The new measure also makes the contents of your web browsing history fair game, which can’t make anyone feel comfortable.

"If signed by the President, this law would repeal the FCC's widely-supported broadband privacy framework, and eliminate the requirement that cable and broadband providers offer customers a choice before selling their sensitive, personal information," FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny said in a joint statement.

The vote was passed under the Congressional Review Act -- which allows Congress to nullify any law recently passed by a federal agency. If you were hoping for a silver lining, forget about it, because the FCC's new measure bars the agency from enacting rules similar to the Obama-era protections in the future. The new rule puts internet companies and social networking sites on equal footing with ISPs; Facebook, Google, Twitter and other large internet companies that track your data are able to sell it for advertising purposes under current FCC guidelines.

The measure is expected to pass in the House and ultimately carry President Trump's signature, although a timeframe on the process hasn't been confirmed. In any case, get ready for your personal data to morph into a commodity again -- whether you like it or not. 

[h/t Reuters]

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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Vice. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.