ISPs: We're not going to sell your web browsing data

Verizon, Comcast and AT&T all defended their business practices following a controversial congressional vote that gives them the power to sell customers' data.

Major internet service providers (ISPs) on Friday said they don't plan to sell their customers' web browsing data, even after Congress cleared the way for them to do so.

The statements from Verizon, Comcast and AT&T follow the congressional vote to repeal federal regulation that would have prevented ISPs from selling consumers' personal information.

"We have committed not to share our customers' sensitive information (such as banking, children's, and health information), unless we first obtain their affirmative, opt-in consent," wrote Comcast senior vice president Gerard Lewis. He argued that Comcast's privacy commitments "go even beyond this protection of sensitive information that has dominated the dialogue this week. If a customer does not want us to use other, non-sensitive data to send them targeted ads, we offer them the ability to opt out of receiving such targeted ads."

Comcast also plans to revise its privacy policy, Lewis wrote to make it more clear that the company doesn't sell customers' individual web browsing information and doesn't share sensitive information unless customers have affirmatively opted into such an agreement.

Verizon chief privacy officer Karen Zacharia similarly declared, "Verizon does not sell the personal web browsing history of our customers. We don't do it and that's the bottom line."

She said Verizon has just two programs that use web browsing data -- its Verizon Selects ad program that uses "de-identified information" to target certain groups of customers, as well as a program that provides aggregate insights on customers. Customers have a choice about participating in both, she said.

AT&T's senior executive VP Bob Quinn didn't specifically lay out consumer protections at AT&T but said the company's approach to the issue is "to focus on the nature of the data and have a consistent framework on collection." He noted that AT&T and other ISPs con.tinue to be governed by the Communications Act and called the congressional vote "commendable work"

While these companies assert they don't have any current plans from selling individuals' web histories, privacy advocates have warned that the congressional repeal does give ISPs the option of collecting and selling information like a customer's location, health or financial status.

The bill now awaits President Trump's signature.

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