Comcast, Verizon and AT&T insist they won’t sell browsing history, despite privacy rollback

Donald Trump
Donald Trump is set to quickly sign a Republican-led Congressional resolution repealing a set of privacy protections that were hallmarks of President Obama’s media policy. Image: Gage Skidmore / CC

With the reversal of FCC internet privacy regulations now imminent, Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have each released statements pledging not to sell the browsing histories of their customers. 

“We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual web browsing history. We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so,” blogged Gerard Lewis, Comcast senior VP, deputy general counsel and chief privacy officer.

“AT&T’s privacy protections are the same today as they were five months ago when the FCC rules were adopted," said Bob Quinn, senior executive VP of external and legislative affairs at AT&T, also in a statement. “We had the same protections in place the day before the Congressional resolution was passed, and we will have the same protections the day after President Trump signs the CRA into law.  The Congressional action had zero effect on the privacy protections afforded to consumers."

Added Verizon Chief Privacy Officer Karen Zacharia: “Let’s set the record straight. Verizon does not sell the personal web browsing history of our customers. We don’t do it and that’s the bottom line.”

RELATED: Cable operators could benefit from Congress’ broadband privacy rollback

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 215-205 last week to endorse legislation repealing a set of privacy protections that were hallmarks of President Obama’s media policy. President Trump is expected to swiftly sign the bill.

The action is a victory for cable, satellite and telecom providers, which are moving aggressively to counter video subscriber losses with expanded broadband services. A lot of advertising dollars are at stake. The online advertising market, which overtook linear television’s this year, is projected to reach $83 billion this year, with the gap between digital and TV continuing to increase in coming years.

Following a similar action by the Senate, the House voted along party lines to free companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from the limitations put in place in 2015. They had restricted what companies could do with customers’ location data, Social Security numbers, internet browsing histories and app usage. Under those rules, providers were also required to tighten security protection of customer data.