Republicans just sold your privacy
Views 24 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 4 - 11 - 2017 | By: Cameron Lee
Last week, the Republican Party sold your privacy to internet service providers. I realize this comes across as a loaded statement, so allow me to break it down for you.
Republicans in the House and Senate voted to pass a highly controversial bill, which was then signed by Republican President Donald Trump.
Not a single Democrat voted in favor of this bill, though a few House Republicans boldly broke party ranks. The bill overrides a set of Obama-era FCC rules which – beginning in December – would require ISPs to obtain customer consent before selling their personal browsing information to advertisers. The only justification provided for this bill has been a series of empty platitudes regarding the importance of free markets. Furthermore, it has been widely observed that the Republicans who backed this legislation have received substantial campaign contributions from the telecom industry; for example, Mitch McConnell received about $250,000 from the industry in his last election alone.
So I repeat: the Republicans sold your online privacy protections. It is up to the American people to decide how they wish to respond to this betrayal of trust by their elected representatives, but I would recommend two modes of action: start using a virtual private network (VPN), and vote these representatives out at the next election cycle.
Admittedly, it is not entirely clear at this point how great of an impact this legislation will have on the relationship between customers, ISPs, and advertisers. Technically speaking, ISPs were already able to sell customer data before the FCC rules went into effect. What these rules effectively do is grant explicit permission for ISPs to continue with this process; many commentators have suggested that such explicit endorsement will encourage ISPs to take a more active role in selling consumer data. When you consider the extreme amount of personal information that can be interpreted from browsing history, there is at least some legitimate basis to the concern that only minimal regulation would constrain the dispersal of this information.
Furthermore, it is exceedingly difficult to see any grain of truth in the Republican assertion that removing the FCC rules is in the best interest of consumers. Once again, the FCC rules did not entirely forbid ISPs from selling data, but merely required that the consumer give their consent before their personal information is handed over to advertisers. It seems ludicrous to assert that consumers are better off by not having a say in whether or not this happens; when depriving someone of their right to be shielded from the invasive eyes of advertisers, there can be no benefit to anyone but the advertisers and the party selling the data.
To be fair, there is nothing new about representatives putting corporate interests ahead of their commitment to their constituents; this is a tale as old as the country, and one that transcends the bounds of party lines. However, if Americans wish to see their own interests represented, they need to punish the representatives who act against those interests, and this is as good of a reason as any to knock a few incumbents out of office at the next election.