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What did Congress just do to my digital privacy?

“On the one hand, nothing has changed. On the other hand, everything has changed.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan Speaks At Wisconsin Politics Forum In D.C. Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Republicans in Congress handed the telecom industry a big win last week when they voted to strip away Obama-era FCC regulations protecting consumers’ privacy. There’s just one little detail that people alarmed by this vote might have missed: Those regulations hadn’t gone into effect yet.

“While they were passed under a Democratic administration, the lion’s share of them, this notion where they had to ask your permission to take your information and sell it to third-party advertisers, that wasn’t going to go into effect until the end of this year,” Recode Senior Editor for Policy and Politics Tony Romm said on the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask.

“On the one hand, nothing has changed,” he added. “On the other hand, everything has changed. Those companies can now start to do different things with your data without asking your permission beforehand.”

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On the new podcast, Romm also talked with Recode’s Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode about the broader outlook for privacy and net neutrality under President Trump and new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a noted opponent of net neutrality. Romm said that most consumers don’t fully comprehend what data tech companies have collected on them in the first place.

“There’s a great lack of information on the part of consumers about what companies are doing, how much information they’re collecting and ultimately what they’re doing with it,” Romm said. “Most folks don’t know what Google collects about them. Most folks don’t know how online advertising works. Most folks don’t know why they see the things that they do in their News Feed, and they’re not asking those questions about smart home stuff, or self-driving cars.”

Have questions about privacy policy that we didn’t answer in this episode? If so, you’re in luck, because this is just part one of a two-part Too Embarrassed to Ask special. Next week, we’ll be talking about specific steps that regular consumers can take to protect their digital privacy, so send us your questions about VPNs, encrypted messaging or anything else on your mind.

You can tweet your questions to @Recode with the hashtag #TooEmbarrassed, or email them to

Be sure to follow @LaurenGoode, @KaraSwisher and @Recode to be alerted when we're looking for questions about a specific topic.

If you like this show, you should also check out our other podcasts:

  • Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
  • And finally, Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, such as the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara and Lauren. Tune in next Friday for another episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask!

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