Although FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated, “I strongly support a free and open internet,” the FCC officially repealed net neutrality on June 11th. The original net neutrality laws protected the internet by referring to it as a common carrier. That meant it fairly provided a service like utilities to everyone.
However, repealing net neutrality laws changed this status. Now, the internet is defined as an information provider, making it subject to market rules. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will now oversee it, with the responsibility to protect consumers while simultaneously encouraging competition.
A Question of Rights and Freedom
Those in favor of the repeal believe it will create opportunities for internet service providers (ISPs) to provide more innovative products. Yet many are still concerned. If the internet now lies in the hands of ISPs, then they have more power to charge what they they like and determine who sees what content. This could leave many deprived of the content or connection speed they previously enjoyed.
In an editorial published on the Forbes website, Johannes Bauer, a Michigan State University professor and researcher focused on the digital economy, noted, “Blocking, throttling, and differentiated pricing of access and information bundles could be used in ways that harm free speech. The power of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to mitigate such undesirable effects and protect user interests is not fully tested and may be insufficient.” Depriving individuals of equal access make this move a human rights issue.
The Impact on Data Security
Another growing concern is that of third parties using and selling personal and business data. In an article for the Center For Internet and Society, Ryan E. Long provided insight on how the net neutrality repeal might be problematic for data security:
“With less competition, ISPs likely need more regulation to ensure that they adequately protect consumer privacy. Deregulation would result in privacy becoming more of a luxury than a right. Consumers, for example, might need to pay a premium for a level of internet access that doesn’t throttle high-speed encrypted communications.”
At the same time, new laws like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) put control of data in the hands of those who own that data. Although so far there’s no equivalent legislation in the U.S., the GDPR may set a precedent in terms of what can be done here to ensure data security, despite the loss of net neutrality.
Until that happens, there must be other ways to address data security. According to David Gorodyanksy, CEO of AnchorFree, a technology company focused on providing free and open communication, explained that freedom should be viewed as a service:
“Without government regulation of the Internet, technology is the only option for people’s protection. People are now starting to understand the value of their online privacy and what corporations are doing with their information. They are realizing that companies like Google and Facebook want to use their data as currency, and that they need to take the protection of their online information into their own hands.”
For example, AnchorFree offers the Hotspot Shield™ app as one potential solution for data security issues. It encrypts all internet traffic on the app user’s devices and sends all traffic through AnchorFree’s secure servers. Users can anonymously browse the internet while maintaining the security of any transmitted data. This is one approach to protecting personal data from the ongoing breaches.
Also, the FTC provides multiple online guides offering tips on data security for both consumers and businesses. In its Stick with Security guide, the focus is on how businesses can securely handle user data. The tips help users educate themselves about what to ask a business when deciding whether to share data. Readers also learn about ways to minimize the risks involved with sharing data.
Finally, the Data Privacy and Security Insider offers numerous tips that cover the current scams and tactics hackers use to steal personal data. For example, it recently noted that cell phone locations were being leaked and sold. These tips also listed specific apps that were exposing parent and teen data. Staying on top of these data scams is another way to gain control over personal data.
Repealing net neutrality is part of a larger ongoing shift that includes new technology and revolutionary ways to use the Internet. With this shift, decisions need to be made about data privacy, human rights and personal freedoms. For the time being, it is important to protect personal data by leveraging technology and knowledge, while simultaneously fighting to retain equal access to the internet.