Not long ago we reported on how the FCC (Federal Communications Company) ditched its own measure that forced broadband providers regulated by the entity to ask for permission before selling any information about their customers to third parties. This was meant to increase users’ privacy mainly regarding targeted advertisements and other business practices, but the most debated aspect of it was the fact that it leaves other companies known precisely for that kind of behavior out of the equation – such as Facebook and Google.
The issue here is that these two are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission instead, which is why the bill doesn’t affect them. Taking into account that limiting only a certain part of the industry would ultimately benefit the other part, who in turn would end up having the entire monopoly on their hands, the FCC then decided to vote against its own bill. Months passed and President Trump signed the bill allowing ISPs to share whatever info they have based on their clients’ internet usage without asking their permission.
A Shockwave for the Country
Since then the country was swiped by a wave of measures from different jurisdictions to reinstate the FCC the power to protect customers, either by changing the law or making the necessary changes to the one in effect. Nearly half of the country’s states filled their own measures contesting this decision but none of them were approved. In New York, for instance, Senator Tim Kennedy introduced a bill in April to reverse the changes to the privacy rules initially instigated by the Obama Administration that President Trump then upturned, laws that previously forbade ISPs from selling customers’ browsing history and other personal information. But a Republican-dominated Senate rejected it immediately, something that Kennedy considered a “misguided decision” that “helps the large multi-billion dollar corporations but hurts the little guy”. Just like in New York, many other states introduced their own measures, including some to make the FTC approve a similar bill that in turn would impact every company and leave no margin for error. But much like the bill proposed for New York, all of them suffered the same sad fate.
However, there’s one bill with a particular importance in this story, and it could hold the key to an actual change on the legislation that customers have been demanding. According to Democrat Assembly member Ed Chau’s words, who introduced this new measure, California wants to “set the pace” and “be the leader when it comes to privacy protections”, hoping that other smaller states can follow its steps.
Called Assembly Bill 375, this is in every way like the original FCC draft since it would force all companies within the state to ask for their client’s permission to sell the customer’s personal information. The reason this bill has built such high expectations – besides California being the most populated state in the country – is that Google and Facebook are based there, which could be an important strike on two of the most known customer information gatherers. However, before it even gets voted in the Senate and ends up on the Senator’s desk, the Bill has a long road ahead, having to visit several committees that have the power to easily defeat it.
Protecting Privacy With a VPN
Although California’s Assembly Bill 375 will be significant for privacy enthusiasts should it get the approval seal, we all know how long it can take before it actually starts being taken into effect. This means that, until then, your personal information is managed freely by your ISP and other services that like to track you, so your privacy is rarely secure. But fortunately there’s something you can use to fight this problem on your own: a VPN. With the help of VPN protocols and high-standard encryptions, your online footsteps will be invisible to your ISP’s eyes, and so there’s nothing to see or to sell about your online behavior. In fact, if you combine VPN usage with a handful of good practices on social media, you can prevent Facebook and others from spying on you, too. Likewise, VPNs allow you to circumvent geographical restrictions on websites and unblock services that are not available in other countries.