Bill allows service providers to sell information

Posted at 10:49 PM, Mar 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-29 22:49:45-04

Congress has voted to repeal the rule that stops internet providers from collecting and selling an individual’s browsing history, location and user-data.

That bill is now sitting on President Donald Trump’s desk and he's expected to sign it.

Supporters, including Congressman Chris Collins, say the current rules put an unfair burden on internet providers and that's why they decided to repeal it.

So what does that mean for the consumer?

Legislation passed in both Houses in Washington would now allow Verizon to sell one’s personal information without consent.

“It's my private business. Why should they be able to know what I’ve been searching?” says Julia Levine, an online shopper.

Most consumers we spoke with disagree with allowing service providers to sell your browser history.

“Whatever you do at your home or on your PC, you do it in your own privacy. You don't want anyone to look over your shoulder and see what you’re doing,” says Philip Pierre, who disagrees with the bill.

Most Republicans voted in favor of the bill, including western New York representative Chris Collins.

He tells 7 Eyewitness News that this will have no impact on consumers because the Obama-era rule that banned the practice was never fully implemented.

In a statement, Rep. Collins says consumers and their privacy will continue to be protected under already existing regulations at the state and federal level.

That’s not so says the Western NY chapter of the Civil Liberties Union. It says this change even gives law enforcement the ability to search your browser history without a warrant.

“If someone has that type of info on you, then they know everything about your life,” says John Curr, Western Region Director of the NY Civil Liberties Union.

Experts say you can use a browser like a VPN to help maintain your online anonymity, but even those are no guarantee.

“Some sites you want to get to have actually pushed back and said we won't let you access this site if you try to use a VPN. So, I think that's an imperfect solution to those people who don't want to give up their privacy online,” says Mark Bartholomew, a UB law professor.