Broadband providers such as Comcast and AT&T will have to get customers’ permission before they can share personal data with other companies, the FCC ruled Thursday, marking a major expansion of privacy protections and perhaps shifting the balance of power in the online marketplace.
Those browsing on mobile devices could refuse to have their locations shared, while all users could instruct their internet service providers not to trade their web browsing history or information about what apps they are using under the rules, which the Federal Communications Commission adopted on a 3-2 vote.
“It’s the consumer’s information. How it is used should be the consumer’s choice, not the choice of some corporate algorithm,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who led the push for the changes.
The rules will need to be published, and the industry will have a year to comply. In addition to internet use, the ISPs would have to allow customers to opt in to share their geographic locations, their financial or health information, and the contents of their communications.
Additionally, customers must be allowed to opt out of having information about their plans, such as the types of services they buy, shared.