The uncertain future of online privacy after FCC rule roll back

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) Your personal computer may not be so personal anymore -- this after the president signed a law repealing privacy protections which allow internet service providers to sell customer's internet habits without permission.

Now, the digital footprints made in the comfort of your home could be sold to the highest bidder. This is happening because Congress has voted to kill a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule. The rule would have prevented internet providers like Verizon and Comcast from selling that information to advertisers without consumer consent.

“What I really find confusing is when people say that this doesn't affect privacy, it's all about privacy," said North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

Sen. Heitkamp (D-ND) says the repeal of this rule is concerning.

“I know how people feel when they write out a check to their wireless carrier for hundreds of dollars a month, and then realize that not only are they charging you all this money for this service, they are going to take your personal data and profit from it," she explained.

However, Google and Facebook already use your personal information for targeted advertising. Republicans argue internet providers shouldn't be treated any differently.

“It's important from a consumer standpoint to be clear guidelines, clear standards, and that everybody be treated the same way when they use the Internet," said Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Chairman of the Commerce Committee.

Experts say consumers can download software called virtual private networks from websites online to maintain your online anonymity. They also recommend deleting the internet browser’s cookies and researching privacy policies.

The cat’s out of the bag, If you want to function in today's world, you end up giving up some information," said Betsy Page Sigman, a professor at Georgetown University.

Professor Sigman says consumers can try to opt out of having their data collected, but don't expect broadband companies to make it easy.

“Some people don't know to opt out, so there’s some education that is going to have to take place in the public arena," Sigman said.

She says there's still more work to be done and expects some regulatory oversight from federal agencies.

“It’s going to have to play out in the regulatory agencies in the next few months," she said. "It will be an interesting operation to watch."