US internet providers pledge to not sell customer data after controversial rule change

US internet providers pledge to not sell customer data after controversial rule change
The three major US Internet Service Providers (ISPs) Comcast Corp, Verizon Communications Inc, and AT&T Inc have pledged to protect the private data of US citizens in solidarity against the latest internet bill passed by Congress.

"We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual web browsing history. We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so," said Gerard Lewis, Comcast's chief privacy officer, as cited by Reuters.

Bill S.J. Res. 34 reverses a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling passed under the Obama administration that required ISPs to seek customer’s permission before sharing browsing history and other sensitive data such as geolocation, financial, health and children's information.

White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said killing the rules “will allow service providers to be treated fairly and consumer protection and privacy concerns to be reviewed on an equal playing field.”

However, not everyone is convinced.

A blog post by Verizon’s chief privacy officer, Karen Zacharia, stated the company’s intentions emphatically. “Let’s set the record straight. Verizon does not sell the personal web browsing history of our customers. We don’t do it and that’s the bottom line.”

Both AT&T and Comcast also published similar statements showing a unified front in the face of perceived governmental overreach and to allay fears among their customers.

Zacharia did address the two programs Verizon operates in which it does share user information but emphasized that the company "de-identified information” so that only aggregate and statistical, rather than personal, information is shared with marketers.

The controversial privacy bill received no support from Democrats and even had 10 Republicans dissenting, but was still passed given the current political dynamic in congress.

President Donald Trump has yet to sign the bill into law but is expected to do so in the coming week.