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ShareYou think the IPA is bad – it could be worse, you could be in the USA!

For two western countries that are relatively similar in many ways, it appears the UK and the USA could not have more opposing views when it comes to the protection of data and privacy. Whilst the UK Government continues to fend off ongoing legal challenges and criticism of its controversial IPA (Investigatory Powers Act) or Snoopers’ Charter as it’s widely nicknamed, the USA is about to make it perfectly legal for ISPs to sell off their customers’ personal information and web activity history to the highest bidders for commercial use.

As you know from our previous articles on the subject, the IPA requires UK ISPs to retain vast amounts of customer data including your online activity and enables the security agencies and police to access this data as and when they require, regardless of whether or not you are suspected of a crime. The latest challenge to this Act has come from the European Court of Justice who argued the new law contravenes existing European laws on privacy and data retention. See our article “How can the Investigatory Powers Act ever co-exist with the EU?” for more information.

However, across the pond the USA are about to legalise the sale of personal data including customers’ web activity history by ISPs for commercial use, let alone national security and crime fighting. And we think we’ve got it bad!

The plans were voted in this week and are said to be supported by the president which means they will shortly become law. Once this happens US ISPs will be able to sell off basically everything they know about their customers to third parties without the customer’s permission. This is obviously valuable information from a commercial point of view – for the right price a company could find out which websites you visit and how regularly, your hobbies, your family dynamic, your recent online purchasing history and so much more.

In reality, this probably means US customers will be subjected to a lot more targeted online advertising, like we already see through Facebook and Google for example. However, the contradiction between the ‘free for all’ approach of the USA and the ongoing fight the UK Government are facing can’t fail to be noticed. As we have said many times before, we have many concerns over the scope of the IPA and the requirements it places on ISPs but this latest news from across the pond demonstrates at least it could be worse…it could all be for commercial gain and not ‘in the interests of national security’! It will be interesting to monitor how US citizens take to this news and how easily the new law is actually implemented (we suspect US VPN sales are about to skyrocket). Can you imagine the backlash if our Government tried something similar?!

Have your say!

What do you think? Do you think the USA have the right idea and the UK should follow suit and open up this information for commercial advantage or do you think we need to protect our data and privacy? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment below.

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