The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted the rules that would require broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to protect the privacy of their customers. This means that broadband providers would now need permission before they can collect data.
The FCC said in a press release that rules would provide customers more control over the use of their personal information. ISP providers would need to use a framework of customer consent before they can share their customers' personal information.
The New York Times reports that the FCC voted 3-to-2 in favor of adopting the privacy rules. Currently, broadband providers can track users unless the individual tells them not stop.
This is the first time that the FCC has passed this kind of online protection as the agency only made privacy rules for phones and cable television. Broadband providers like AT&T and Verizon Communications were not held to any privacy restrictions.
The privacy rules deal a big blow to AT&T and Comcast. These companies rely on user data to serve a sophisticated, targeted advertising.
The new rules may also affect AT&T's bid to acquire Time Warner for $85.4 billion. One of the stated ambitions of the deal was to combine resources to move more into targeted advertising.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said protecting the private information of Internet users is important. "There is a basic truth: It is the consumer's information," he said.
The privacy rules separate the use and sharing of information into three categories. The first category is Opt-in, where broadband providers are required to obtain affirmative "opt-in" consent from consumers to use and share sensitive information.
The second category is Opt-out, where ISP providers can use and share non-sensitive information unless a customer "opts-out." The last category is Exceptions to consent requirements, where customer consent is inferred for certain purposes, including the provision of broadband service or billing and collection.