Monthly Archives: March 2017

Facing backlash, broadband providers say they won’t sell browsing histories

Just days after Congress moved to kill privacy rules protecting broadband users, two of the largest internet service providers said Friday that they would not sell customer browsing histories to advertisers. In separate announcements, Verizon and Comcast vowed to protect client privacy and avoid enhancing their own profits by monitoring the internet habits of clients and selling the data to advertisers. “Let’s set the record straight. Verizon does not sell the personal web browsing history of our customers. We don’t do it, and that’s the bottom line,” Verizon’s chief privacy officer, Karen Zacharia, said in a company blog posting1. A Comcast statement echoed the Verizon position.

“We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual web browsing history. We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so,” Gerard Lewis, chief general counsel and privacy officer, wrote in a statement 2on Comcast’s corporate website. The bill, which has passed both the Senate and House and awaits President Donald Trump’s signature, would roll back rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission last October in what Republicans describe as a “midnight regulation.” Those rules would prevent broadband providers from collecting personal data without consent, then profit from the sale of such data to marketers. White House spokesman Sean Spicer left no doubt that Trump would sign the roll back, saying the Obama administration sought to favor social media companies and search engines at the expense of broadband providers. “The president pledged to reverse this type of federal overreach in which bureaucrats in Washington take the interests of one group of companies over the interests of others, picking winners and losers,” Spicer said Thursday. Critics of the move called it a defeat for privacy, and a backlash is building.

At least two internet campaigns have raised more than $270,000 to buy the browsing histories of lawmakers and even their family members for public perusal. One campaign3 that had a $10,000 goal has surpassed $193,000 in five days. It was launched by a Chattanooga, Tennessee, activist who wants to buy the internet browsing histories of all legislators and their families and publish them.

“Let’s turn the tables. Let’s buy THEIR history and make it available,” activist Adam McElhaney wrote on his fundraising page. Another campaign4, started by Misha Collins of Los Angeles, has raised more than $81,000 toward a goal of publicizing the internet history only of lawmakers who voted in favor of killing the FCC privacy rules.

A third broadband provider, AT&T, issued a lengthier and more combative statement than those of New York-based Verizon and Philadelphia-based Comcast. The Dallas-based company’s senior executive vice president for legislative affairs, Robert W. Quinn Jr., said the FCC regulations in question discriminated against broadband providers5.

“In truth, companies that collect and use the most customer information on the internet are not the (internet service providers) but other internet companies, including operating system providers, web browsers, search engines, and social media platforms. And the FCC rules had nothing – literally nothing – to do with these companies or their practices,” Quinn wrote. He said AT&T has privacy protections in place that did not change with the FCC regulations and will not change with the new bill.


  1. ^ a company blog posting (
  2. ^ wrote in a statement (
  3. ^ One campaign (
  4. ^ Another campaign (
  5. ^ discriminated against broadband providers (

MyBroadband FreeUs – Unlimited free mobile data

You’ve heard of Telkom FreeMe, now prepare for MyBroadband FreeUs – a deal which blows mobile data packages out of the water. Telkom’s offer of 20GB for R599 on FreeMe and Cell C’s SmartData package of 100GB for R899 may have got you all excited in recent months, but you can forgot about those deals just like you forgot about VHS. MyBroadband has launched its FreeUs app for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone, which gives users unlimited, unshaped mobile data through a clever app.

And we’re not talking “unlimited” with a fair usage policy – this is unrestricted and there are no data or speed limits. Too good to be true, you say? Here’s how it works.

The one app to rule them all

The FreeUs app is like a mini operating system on your phone. The app contains web browsing and file-sharing functionality, and includes embedded versions of popular apps – such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Netflix, DStv Now, and Uber. Once you open the app, you are connected to a MyBroadband server which zero-rates all mobile data used.

The MyBroadband server also connects to popular hubs and services directly, such as Netflix’s content delivery networks in South Africa. This not only ensures low-latency, high-speed connectivity, but helps you get the most out of your free data. MyBroadband has signed deals with Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom to ensure their customers receive free data usage while in the FreeUs app.

This means you will not pay a cent for any data you use while in the app.

Unlimited data, limited advertising

Now that you know how it works, the next questions is: How can MyBroadband afford to offer all that data for free? We’ll be straight with you, there may be “a couple” adverts during the app experience.

The first component is that the FreeUs app is defaulted to as its home page. This cannot be changed. While accessing the web browser in the app, users will also be required to view the MyBroadband website for 1 minute for every 10 minutes of usage.

To make this easy for you, the browser will automatically navigate to our website, after which a script will run that cycles through several articles. Free Netflix, Showmax, and DStv Now data usage also does not come cheap, and users will be required to watch a minute-long advert from their mobile network provider for every five minutes of video streaming. The networks have each pledged to make at least three adverts, and the video clip will automatically play in the streaming service you are using.

Other adverts which will appear as part of the FreeUs experience include:

  • Full-page pop-up adverts.
  • Those small, almost-hidden videos which play audio and take forever to find.
  • Reminders to sign up for the MyBroadband newsletter and forum (which can only be removed by signing up for the newsletter or forum).

So what are you waiting for?

Download the Free Us app today.

Broadband privacy no more.

How did this happen?

If you’re reading this, I’m sorry — your internet provider now knows you’re a fan of Mashable and they could sell that information. Please don’t blame us. This week, the U.S. government ripped apart the rules former Federal Communications Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler put in place to protect your privacy while browsing the web. Now, thanks to a new administration, who you are — based on what you do online — is now for the taking… for a price. Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, all the companies you hate to hate, can sell information about your privacy to the highest bidder, a.k.a.

advertising giants. It all sounds rather ridiculous and quite alarming. Business editor Jason Abbruzzese and I chatted with Gigi Sohn, Open Society fellow, to learn how this all happened and why. Sohn served as counselor to Wheeler when he served as chairman.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Sohns advised on several telecommunications and media policy issues, including broadband privacy and net neutrality. Now, she works with Open Society Foundation. As the counselor to Wheeler, who helped put these broadband privacy rules in place, she’s obviously upset about the derailment of the rules. She walks us through both sides of the issues and what’s to come.

“When it comes to your internet providers you have no protection,” Sohn said. “I think number one Congress should repeat the law that prohibits the FTC of regulating the broadband market.”

What’s next? Is there any hope? Sohn hoped that more people would speak out about this being an issue.

She recalled efforts by the late-night hosts, such as John Oliver and Stephen Colbert, to bring awareness to the campaign for net neutrality.

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