FCC ruling will require permission before sharing consumer info

Internet providers will soon have to ask permission to provide marketers with consumers' data, according to a recent FCC ruling.

When the ruling goes into effect in a few months, IPs will still be able to use anonymous data and other online properties such as Google or Twitter will not be impacted.

When the rules go into place, internet providers will be required to get "explicit permission from subscribers" before sharing sensitive information, such as their browsing history, app usage and the content of emails.

The restrictions will also apply to medical and financial information, social security numbers and information on children. Any information that isn’t covered by these categories can still be shared by internet providers unless consumers opt out.

“It is the consumer's information,” FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said before the committee vote. “How it is used should be the consumer’s choice, not the choice of some corporate algorithm.”

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There are not explicit procedures to follow, but internet providers are to take reasonable security measures; in the event of a consumer information breach, the affected customers should be notified within 30 days.

Several institutional organizations are not pleased with the ruling. For example, the Direct Marketing Association wrote in a letter to Target Marketing that the decision was bad for consumers and the U.S. economy.

"The success of the digital economy in the United States is not an accident,” wrote Emmett O'Keefe, DMA's senior VP of advocacy. “It is the product of a proven framework for the collection and use of data online. The beauty of the current system is that it puts consumers in control of how data about them is used across the entire Internet. Consumers understand how the system works and have come to want and expect advertising messages to be useful and relevant to them."

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O'Keefe went on to say that the FCC's action ignores what works well in the system and will make it even harder for advertisers to create relevant and useful messages.

Other organizations that offered pushback from the ruling include the Digital Advertising Alliance. "This is an analog decision in a digital era," Lou Mastria, executive director, Digital Advertising Alliance, said in a statement. "The FCC missed an opportunity to help consumers better understand the essential role of advertising in supporting digital media, and its decision flies in the face of the proven and effective self-regulatory model that has served consumers so well."

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