Broadband internet providers can no longer harvest and sell your private data without permission

FCC just made it harder for broadband providers to harvest your data
(Image credit: iStock)

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave final approval to new rules that prevent broadband internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast from collecting your private digital information and sharing it with third parties, unless you give your explicit permission. The 3-2 vote followed months of intense lobbying by the broadband industry, which opposes the new rules, and was welcomed by privacy and consumer advocates. "There is a basic truth: It is the consumer's information," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "It is not the information of the network the consumer hires to deliver that information."

Previously, internet providers could gather up your web browsing habits, location data, and app usage unless the consumer told them not to. They used this sometimes sensitive data to help advertisers target ads at users. The companies have a year to comply with the new rules. The broadband industry complained that the regulations will cost consumers by reducing the number of free, ad-supported services — though internet companies like Google and Facebook aren't directly affected, since they fall under the umbrella of the Federal Trade Commission, not FCC.

"For the first time, the public will be guaranteed that when they use broadband to connect to the internet, whether on a mobile device or personal computer, they will have the ability to decide whether and how much of their information can be gathered," Jeffrey Chester at the Center for Digital Democracy tells The New York Times. "Today the government did something that benefits you," said William Turton at Gizmodo. "Remember: There is literally zero benefit for you as a customer and user give up your personal information so that rich guys at tech companies or telecoms can sell it."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.