Net Neutrality in a Nutshell
Lately, the topic of net neutrality has received a lot of attention. Many people understand the subject to some degree, but this section is going to break down exactly what it is, why it’s important, and who is on either end of the debate.
The concept of net neutrality is fundamentally very simple: it is the regulatory framework for an internet in which service providers must treat all traffic sources equally, and cannot dictate what content people see online. Currently, the FCC prohibits ISPs like Comcast and Verizon from slowing certain web connections and throttling others, and charging customers extra for access to particular content. It maintains consumer’s control of what they see online, and gives content providers of all sizes level grounds on the web.
Imagine if your internet service provider (ISP) was Comcast and they slowed your download speeds on Hulu to a crawl, rendering it pretty much unwatchable. Then, you switch over to Netflix and experience virtually no buffer! This would be an example of an ISP violating net neutrality rules – usually done in an effort to promote their own or their affiliate’s content over others.
The recent buzz around the subject is generated by an upcoming review of net neutrality rules in Washington. The FCC has begun rolling-back rules that were enacted in 2015, and the fiercest debates center around rules regarding net neutrality. The White House has positioned themselves to be in favor of altering the current rules, though they expect there to be no small amount of push-back from the public.
Many well-known internet content providers as well as giant web based corporations have joined the fight for net neutrality. On July 12th, companies including Google, Facebook, Reddit, Amazon and Twitter staged a ‘net neutrality day of action’ in which they urged and assisted people in writing the FCC in defense of net neutrality. On the other end of the battle, ISPs like Verizon argue that they should be able to charge more to access certain content, and be given the ability to direct consumers to particular sites. Obviously, this would be an enormous source of revenue for these companies, which is why ISP lobbyists flood into Capitol Hill. It is a conversation to follow in the coming weeks as decisions are made.
Your Data but No Longer Your Property?
While we’re on the subject of internet regulation, it’s a good time to describe the latest legislation that went into effect this year.
In early April, a measure was passed by The White House that gives internet service providers the ability to sell customer web browsing history and other sensitive data without any explicit consent from the customers themselves. Companies like Google and Facebook have been collecting customer data for years and using it to target ads, narrow and predict searches, and direct material to particular groups, but these regulations give ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon the permission to do the same without any consent from the customer. Many experts argue that the lack of privacy is a slippery slope that can lead to compromised personal information, and undoubtedly creates a target for hacking groups. How can consumers be sure that these companies can properly protect the sensitive information they are collecting?
This legislation, which was passed by the House and signed by the President in early April, essentially puts a price tag on customer information. ISPs are allowed to freely profit from this data, and can do so without the consumer’s consent. Privacy rights groups point to lobbyists in Congress that have been working to repeal rules that protect data and browsing privacy. One large corporation though, is not onboard.
Apple: “We Think it’s Wrong”
Apple CEO Tim Cook has made it very clear how they feel about collecting customer data. For years he has separated Apple from other giants like Google and Facebook, claiming that they are simply uninterested in collecting their user’s data. Cook highlights the way that other companies have been attempting to monetize the heaps of information that they are beginning to accrue, and he identifies it as wrong. Apple has long been at the forefront of protecting privacy rights. Last year, the company refused to hack an iPhone for the FBI in pursuit of a killer. They protected the principle that they will never provide backdoor access or tools to hack into their software. This position has fueled the ongoing debate on encryption and backdoor access.
The Wild, Wild Web
While the internet can seem like a wildly volatile and insecure environment, there are things you can do to protect yourself. The most important is to educate yourself, your family, your co-workers, and your employees about the many threats lurking online. Consider this: 95% of all security incidents involve human error, according to SecurityIntelligence.com. The first level of protection should be education, so that you can recognize an attack and take appropriate action. At SIM2K, we offer simulated phishing attacks and assessments, and other customized tools to help you reduce the chance of human error compromising your network.
For more information, visit our website or call (317) 251-7920. We would be happy to sit down and discuss how we can improve your peace-of-mind online.
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