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The FCC warns Internet providers they’re on the hook now for user privacy - The Washington Post

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Don't misuseyour customers' personal information.

That's thewarningfederal regulators are sendingtoInternet providers such as Comcast and Verizon, in a reminder that they and other broadband companies are now bound by some of the strictest privacy regulations on the books.

Thenoticestems from the Federal Communications Commission's new net neutralitypolicy. Drawing from the same law that regulates legacy phone service, net neutralityprohibits the sharing of your subscriberrecords with third parties unless you give explicit permission to your carrier.

At a time when customer data has becomethe way many Internet businesses make a living, these rules represent a significant check on Internet providers many of which also dream of sellingcontentonline.

"The Commission has found that absent privacy protections, a broadband providers use of personal and proprietary information could be at odds with its customers interests," said the FCC in its advisoryWednesday.

Although the FCC hasn't revealed many specifics on how the privacy rule will be enforced on Internet providers, it's encouraging them to come forward with any questions they might have a move that will be viewed as a sign of good faith, according to the agency.

One question that immediately jumps to mind is this: How will the FCC view a program such as AT&T's GigaPower Internet Preferences? The serviceoffers youa discounton the company's fastest Internet plansso that AT&T can monitor your browsing activity and, in turn, serve you targeted advertising.

If you're signing up for Internet Preferences, you're opting-in to this tracking. Perhaps in doing so, you've given AT&T your permission to share your customer data. But many consumers may unknowingly sign up for Internet Preferences simply because it reflects, as AT&T puts it, the "best pricing." In which case, can you really say permission was granted?

It's enforcement questions like these that will ultimately determine how strong the government's net neutrality rules really are.

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