Internet providers await decision on online privacy regulation

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WYTV) – Congress voted to kill online privacy regulation — a move that could eventually allow internet providers to sell the browsing habits of their customers.

President Donald Trump is expected to agree with Congress on changing those rules, put into place during the Obama administration. They were going to start later this year but haven’t taken effect yet.

The rules would’ve required your internet service provider to do more to protect your privacy than websites like Facebook or Google. It also would have protected sensitive items like children’s information and Social Security numbers.

Chris Wentz, an information security officer at Youngstown State University, said internet providers would be able to see what websites you are visiting and could then use that information for marketing efforts.

Many people don’t like that, but the providers are getting you onto the internet and feel they should have the same access to information.

“The business rationale is, we want to even the playing field. We want to be able to have that visibility that Google and Facebook have into the traffic that is traveling through our pipes,” Wentz said.

The internet service providers want to build advertising businesses rivaling those big tech giants. That helps them make money through ad revenue, and without it, you could pay more for your internet.

“They can continue treating your information like they always have. This legislation would have made it so you would’ve had to opt in in order to do something with that information, like sell it to a third party,” said Joe Danyi, of Youngstown Computer.

So what can you do?

You can pay for a virtual private network or VPN. Those take your internet traffic through a secure pipe that your internet service provider can’t see.

But, it’s hard to find one you can trust and that also wouldn’t charge you a fee.

Experts say federal law still requires broadband providers to protect customer information — but it doesn’t spell out how or what companies must do. That’s what the FCC rule aimed to do.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.