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Congress voted to block Obama-era internet privacy rules. Here's how that impacts you.by Natalia Angulo-Hinkson
Issues

WATCH  | That bathing suit you searched for online? It's going to haunt you. Seriously, you might see ads for it for weeks.

A bill letting Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast sell your information without first getting your permission sailed through Congress this week.

A week after the Senate voted to undo the rules, the House voted Tuesday to roll back Internet privacy protections that were approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Obama administration.

The move squashed President Obama's proposed changes to modernize broadband privacy rules. 

Obama's rules, which the FCC passed last year, hadn't gone into effect, but would have required broadband providers to get your permission before collecting and sharing your data. Providers would have also needed to disclose to consumers the types of details gathered and distributed.

The bill heads to President Trump's desk next. He's expected to sign it.

The White House in a statement said the president "strongly supports" the repeal of the rules, but in a statement said Internet providers wouldn't be able to just sell any kind of data. The statement said providers would be required to get "opt in" consent from consumers before sharing certain sensitive information.

However, the requirement doesn't apply to websites.

"This results in rules that apply very different regulatory regimes based on the identity of the online actor," the White House said.

The rules were already on the rocks, though. Newly-minted FCC Chairman Ajit Pai voted against them as commissioner before he was appointed by Trump in January.

Critics of Obama's rules say they would have hurt innovation and competition among Internet providers. 

They specifically pointed out the browsing and app history restrictions noting that companies like Google and Facebook -- which already have massive ad businesses -- wouldn't have had to follow them.

On a separate note, other experts also warn a lingering security issue that needs to be addressed is that the trove of data being collected is a hacker's goldmine. 

What does this mean for you?

Well, Internet providers already have access to tons of very personal data like geo-location, app usage, web browsing history, birthdays and even Social Security numbers. The changes would have put tough restrictions on what providers could do with your information to help protect your online privacy.

Without them, providers are free to reveal your shopping habits to marketers and other third-parties like insurance companies. (Hence the targeted ads.)

What can you do?

You can technically opt out of data collection, but the process is tricky and varies from provider to provider. 

A simpler, albeit pricier, alternative is paying for a virtual private network that filters your web use through a secure connection that, as the New York Times notes, providers can't see.

For now, it looks like those bikini ads are free to follow you around.