The House has voted to block Obama Era online privacy regulations for Internet use. The legislation has been sent to President Donald Trump for his signature. That leaves the security of small businesses’ online data in a state of limbo where sharing information and client privacy is concerned.
Trump is expected to sign the bill into law. It invokes the Congressional Review Act (CRA) law which allows Congress to undo regulations already passed. Here are the issues for small business owners who use the web to do business and interact with clients there.
The Internet Privacy Repeal: What You Need to Know
ISPs Needed Permission
The rules passed last year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) were intended to give consumers, and by proxy small businesses interacting with those consumers on the web, control over how their online information was being used. The new regulations would have made customer information private requiring ISPs to seek permission to collect, sell or use data. This would have included browser history, app usage, location data and other revealing statistics.
The FCC rule would have required clients be informed when they had been hacked or their data had been breached. It also would have required ISPs to take actions to prevent criminal activity.
Restricting the FCC
However, the current administration wants to undue these regulations before they can go into effect. What’s more, they want to restrict the FCC from being able to write rules like these in the future.
Critics have said the FCC rule would have unfairly impacted ISPs and stifled innovation while adding to the costs of doing business. The administration also wants the Federal Trade Commission rather than the FCC to police privacy issues connected to broadband companies and bigger internet companies like Google. But for small businesses, reversal of the regulations will likely shift the burden of protecting customer privacy back to them.
ISPs Will be Collecting Data
Regardless of the potential implications for small businesses, it’s expected that Trump will sign the bill. That means internet service providers will be able to continue to monitor small business and consumer behavior online and use personal and financial information to sell targeted ads. That will make them more like Facebook and Google, two companies currently unregulated when it comes to the kinds f customer data they can collect.
Translation for Small Business
Again, all of this means small businesses need to be able to safeguard consumer data privacy themselves. If you’re selling any goods or services online, you’ll need to take steps to make sure your customers feel safe.
Here’s a couple of things you can do.
The Virtual Private Network End Game
“Small business owners concerned about their own privacy and the privacy of their business should consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for company business as well as ensuring that websites used are encrypted,” says Jocelyn Baird at NextAdvisor.com.
A VPN provides the security measures businesses need. In the same way a firewall protects the information stored in your computer, these VPN’s protect data you’re sharing through public networks. This is the end game you can use to run around the proposed security roll backs to assure clients their data is safely shared with you.
Use an Encrypted HTTPS Protocol
Sound complicated? It’s not really. The “s” at the end of the older “http” means that all the information passed between your browser and the website you’re connected to is encrypted. That “s” means all the data you share between you and your client is safe, regardless of any changes to privacy laws.
Baird has the final word for small business here, cautioning against panic but suggesting diligence.
“It’s important to understand that Congress did not create new laws, and instead created legislation designed to overturn existing regulations that had been passed — but not yet gone into effect — by the FCC,” she says. “Essentially, not much has changed since the FCC’s rules hadn’t even had a chance to go into effect. What this brings to the forefront is an ever-present need for individuals as well as businesses, large and small, to pay attention to their privacy and the privacy of their customers.”
Internet Users Photo via Shutterstock