Consumers Win One

Yesterday, in my post about AT&T, Time Warner, and the Iron Law of Data Collection, I complained that in all whining about what an unfair advantage AT&T/Time Warner would have in advertising, little notice was taken of the fact that the data in question doesn't belong to AT&T, it belongs to their users. In a rare victory for consumers (at least here in the U.S.) the FCC has agreed and passed a regulation to the effect that ISPs and carriers can not sell or use consumers' viewing information without their permission.

Naturally, the media and communication companies are upset and we will doubtlessly see law suits and lobbying to try to get the ruling overturned. It doesn't go into effect for a year so consumers may never see the benefits of the ruling. That would be a shame. The carriers are all in on the common carrier provisions that let them regard the information they're carrying as an opaque bit stream for whose content they can't be held responsible. But ask them to please not spy on that bit stream and suddenly it's valuable proprietary information.

But I shouldn't be peevish. At least for now consumers can expect to enjoy a little bit of privacy and the ownership of their viewing and communication habits.

UPDATE [2016-10-29 Sat 13:55]: The FCC has a fact sheet about the ruling.

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