Privacy protections designed to prevent U.S. internet service providers from sharing or selling subscribers’ personal information with third parties — without permission — were dismantled by U.S. Congress on Tuesday.
It means that information about the apps American internet subscribers use, the websites they visit, and the things they purchase online — among other things — can potentially be tracked, shared, and monetized by third parties, unless those users opt out.
You might be pleased to learn that Canada, which often follows the U.S. lead on technology issues, has taken a different approach. Here, internet service providers can only share your personal information with third parties with your express consent.
Tamir Israel, a staff lawyer at the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, says you have the privacy commissioner of Canada and the CRTC to thank.
Both organizations have released decisions in recent years that effectively limit the information internet service providers can collect and use for secondary purposes, such as marketing, without your consent.
In 2013, the privacy commissioner launched an investigation into a new Bell initiative called the “relevant advertising program.” The Canadian telco used network usage information, as well as account and demographic information, to build advertising profiles that could be used by third parties to target specific audiences with ads.
In other words, advertisers could target Bell users that visited certain websites. Browsing history or frequently used apps could also be used to infer users’ interests. Users could be further targeted by age, phone model or credit score. Bell also indicated that it might use home internet usage, television viewing history and calling patterns to build ad profiles in the future.