Federal regulators have approved new broadband privacy rules that make internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon ask customers' permission before using or sharing much of their data, the AP reports. Under the measure, for example, a broadband provider has to ask a customer's permission before it can disclose her location or interests by tracking her phone and usage. For some information that's not considered as private, customers can say they don't want their internet provider to share it, like names and addresses. The Federal Communications Commission's measure was scaled back from an earlier proposal, but was still criticized by the advertising, telecommunications, and cable industries.
Cable and phone companies want to grow revenue from ad businesses of their own—AT&T has said increasing advertising tailored to customers' preferences is one of its goals with its $85.4 billion purchase of HBO, CNN, and TBS owner Time Warner; Verizon has bought AOL and agreed to buy Yahoo in order to build up a digital-ad business. But the new rules could make doing that more difficult. Companies and industry groups say it's confusing and unfair that the regulations are stricter than the Federal Trade Commission standards that digital-advertising behemoths such as Google and Facebook operate under. The FCC does not regulate such web companies. FCC officials passed the rules on a 3-2 vote, its latest contentious measure to pass on party lines. (Read more FCC stories.)