Bring up the subject of privacy and you're liable to get this answer: "Well, I don't do anything I'm ashamed of, so I don't care who knows what I'm doing."
That's fine, but the issue of privacy in the internet era is not so much about others learning your secrets but about marketers and advertisers following your every virtual step and amassing huge data troves that are then used for everything from targeting advertising to you, determining your credit rating, and perhaps influencing your employment prospects.
This is the thinking behind privacy regulations adopted by the Federal Communications Commission under the Obama Administration, regulations that the Trump Administration is preparing to toss. Leading consumer organizations are coming to the defense of the regulations, urging the FCC to retain the privacy rules that limit how much data broadband providers like Comcast and AT&T can gather about you.
"Before the internet was developed, consumers relied on the law to protect their privacy and the security of their correspondence through the mail, telegram, and telephone. Consumers should not have less privacy and security just because our systems of communication have evolved to include the internet," Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America say in papers filed with the FCC late Monday.
Racing to repeal
The Obama-era rules require broadband providers -- or internet service providers, as they are sometimes called -- to obtain consumers' opt-in consent before drawing on their Web-surfing history or app usage data for ad targeting.
New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a longtime foe of the regulations, has already managed to delay implementation of a regulation that requires providers to take reasonable security measures to protect consumers' data.
Advertisers and broadband providers say the rules are unfair because they are inconsistent with more permissive Federal Trade Commission rules, which apply to websites but not to broadband providers.
The FTC generally recommends that companies allow consumers to opt out of data collection but doesn't require an opt-in procedure.
But the Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America argue that broadband providers are not comparable to other Web companies.
"Broadband internet access service providers have a unique, sweeping view into consumers’ daily online lives, and should be held to a higher standard than edge providers," the groups said in a letter to the FCC.