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How New FCC Rules Impact Your Privacy

Your privacy may be a little more protected, thanks to new government rules passed to keep internet service providers in check when it comes to using and sharing your personal information.

According to the rules, passed by the Federal Communications Commission, information about your precise location, what you read and search for on the web and what apps you use can no longer be used as these companies please by default. Instead, ISPs like Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon and AT&T will now have to get your consent to use and share your sensitive personal data, which is often given to marketers for research and to tailor advertisements to people according to what they do online.

Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Your financial information, Social Security number, health information and information about your kids could also be more protected, according to the FCC rules.

Companies will still be allowed to use and share your email address and the type of internet service plan you're on, though, unless you take the initiative to opt out of sharing that information. While you may not want to receive solicitations from marketers in your email inbox, the FCC considers that information "non-sensitive."

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ISPs will also have to be clear and persistent in letting their customers know what information they're collecting, who they're sharing it with, and how customers can change their privacy settings, according to the FCC.

But the new rules shouldn't prompt a huge sigh of relief among consumers. They're limited to telecommunications companies, so social networks, online retailers and the like can still go about their business as they have been, collecting our information, giving it to marketers, and using it to tailor ads.

About 96 percent of Americans who use social media don't have a lot of trust that social networks will protect their privacy, according to a recent survey of 1,017 people aged 18 and older.

Althea Chang is Associate Director of Content Development for Consumer Reports and was previously a Senior Writer for Tom's Guide, covering mobile devices, health and fitness gadgets and car tech.