The Things Your ISP Can Do Once The FCC Privacy Rules Are Repealed

The topic that has been on the mind of countless internet users lately is the FCC privacy rules. If you aren’t familiar with it, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set up some rules that protects the privacy of internet users in the US. Their rules made it so your Internet Service Provider (ISP) would be unable to monetize their clients without express consent.

However, Congress is well on its way to repeal those rules and allow ISPs full access to their client’s information without needing their permission. Today, we’re going to discuss the different things that your ISP will be able to do once the FCC rules are repealed.

Sell Your Data To Marketers

Several ISPs have already expressed the idea that they’re sitting on a veritable gold mine of user data that they do want to sell to marketers. What some people may not realize is that some are already doing it.

SAP sells a service called Consumer Insights 365 that ingests regularly updated data representing as many as 300 cellphone events per day for each of the 20 to 25 million mobile subscribers. The service also combines data from telecos with other information, telling businesses whether shoppers are checking out competitor prices.

Marketers need to build consumer profiles on people to efficiently target ads that will practically ensure a sale. This data will only be available if the ISPs sell this information to them. If the FCC rules are fully repealed, this exchange which effectively monetize the clients of ISP shall be a reality.

Hijack Search Results

This occurrence was already recorded in 2011 where several ISPs were caught working with a company named Paxfire to hijack their clients’ search queries to Bing, Yahoo!, and Google.

Whenever a client would enter a search term in their browser’s search box or URL bar, the ISP directed that query to Paxfire instead to an actual search engine. Paxfire then checked what the clients were searching for to see if it matched a list of companies that had paid them for more traffic. If the queries matched one of several such companies or brands, Paxfire would then send clients directly to that company’s website instead of sending them to a search engine which normally would list several results.

In other words, ISPs were effectively hijacking their customer’s search queries and redirecting them to a place customers hadn’t asked for all the while pocketing a little cash from the process.

Sift Through Net Traffic and Insert Ads

AT&T, Charter, and CMA have been caught doing this before. When the FCC privacy rules are repealed, ISPs have every incentive to snoop through clients’ traffic, record their browsing history, and inject ads into their traffic based on this information.

Have you ever noticed this: after searching for something on Google then logging on to Facebook, the ads are now reflecting deals and ads related to the search result of what you looked for?

You can agree that this if pretty invasive and it is this information that companies use to target potential clients.

Putting In Pre-installed Software On Phones

We’re not going to mince words on this one. The pre-installed software? It’s going to spyware. When an android phone is bought, it’s expected that it’s going to come with bloatware. These are apps installed by the manufacturer that buyers will probably never use. What is sinister about this is that some of these apps will now come pre-installed software that will log which apps are used and what websites you visit and this data is sent back to your ISP.

Carrier IQ is one such app. This app came pre-installed in phones sold by AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Such an app gives your ISP a window into all that you do on your phone.

Putting In Undetectable Tracking Cookies In Your HTTP Traffic That Cannot Be Deleted

Back in 2014, Verizon Wireless decided that it was a good thing to insert supercookies into all of its mobile customer’s traffic. It was a feature that could not be turned off by the users.

One would think that using incognito mode would solve the privacy issue but you would be wrong.

Verizon ignored all this and inserted a unique identifier into all your unencrypted outbound traffic anyway. According to the FCC, it wasn’t until “two years after Verizon Wireless first began inserting UIDH, that the company updated its privacy policy to disclose its use of UIDH and began to offer consumers the opportunity to opt-out of the insertion of unique identifier headers into their Internet traffic.”

As a result, anyone—not just advertisers—could track you as you browsed the web. Even if you cleaned out the cookies, advertisers could make use of Verizon’s tracking header to revive them.

This is why the FCC privacy rules are very important. They protect the rights to privacy of users and in the same vein, protect their cyber security. If congress successfully repeals the FCC privacy rules, you can fully expect these practices to be resurrected and there’s very little clients can do about it.