Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category
The Senate has already voted to remove your privacy protections, and now the House follows suit. Goodbye, privacy. It was great while it lasted.
Brian Fung reports in the Washington Post:
House Republicans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday, by a margin of 215-205, to repeal a set of landmark privacy protections for Web users, issuing a sweeping rebuke of Internet policies enacted under the Obama administration. It also marks a sharp, partisan pivot toward letting Internet providers collect and sell their customers’ Web browsing history, location information, health data and other personal details.
Congress’s joint resolution empowers Internet providers to enter the $83 billionmarket for online advertising now dominated by Google and Facebook. It is likely to lend momentum to a broader GOP rollback of Obama-era technology policies, and calls into question the fate of other tech regulations such as net neutrality, which was approved in 2015 over strident Republican objections and bans Internet providers from discriminating against websites. And it is a sign that companies such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon will be treated more permissively at a time when conservatives control all three branches of government.
Supporters of Tuesday’s repeal vote argued the privacy regulations, written by the Federal Communications Commission, stifle innovation by forcing Internet providers to abide by unreasonably strict guidelines.
“[Consumer privacy] will be enhanced by removing the uncertainty and confusion these rules will create,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the FCC.
Internet providers can collect enormous amounts of personal information because they can see all of the online activities of users as they browse different sites on the Web, critics of the legislation said. And unlike search engines or streaming video sites, which consumers can easily abandon if they do not agree with their privacy practices, it is far more difficult to choose a different Internet provider. Many Americans have a choice of only one or two broadband companies in their area, according to federal statistics.
Privacy advocates called the House vote “a tremendous setback for America.”
“Today’s vote means that Americans will never be safe online from having their most personal details stealthily scrutinized and sold to the highest bidder,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “Donald Trump, by giving away our data to the country’s leading phone and cable giants, is further undermining American democracy.” . . .
It’s odd that the GOP favors this. It certainly doesn’t seem conservative to me. But then neither does trashing the environment.
Quinta Jurecic writes at Lawfare:
This morning, the Washington Post reported that the Justice Department sought to prevent former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) as part of the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.
According to the Post, the department informed Yates that many of the topics on which she was set to testify, including former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, were likely protected by executive privilege. Yates’s lawyer responded with letters to Acting Assistant Attorney General Samuel Ramer and White House Counsel Don McGahn asserting that Yates’s testimony was not privileged.
Yates had been scheduled to testify in an open hearing before HPSCI today, along with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan. However, on Friday March 24th, the day after Yates’s lawyer mailed his letter to Ramer and the same day that the letter was sent to McGahn, HPSCI Chairman Devin Nunes canceled the committee’s scheduled open hearing in which Yates was set to testify. The Post also reports that by the day before Nunes canceled the hearing, both Yates and Brennan had informed government officials that their scheduled testimony on Tuesday would likely contradict statements by the White House.
Nunes originally announced that the open hearing with Yates, Brennan, and Clapper had been canceled to make way for a closed hearing with testimony from FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers in response to Nunes’s hazy concerns about possible incidental collection of Trump transition team communications. Yesterday, however, Nunes stated that the closed hearing had been canceled as well.
HPSCI Ranking Member Adam Schiff has suggested that Yates’s response was connected to Nunes’s decision to cancel the hearing. Earlier reports indicated that Nunes publicly declared the hearing’s cancellation without first informing Schiff or the other members of the committee, and Schiff stated publicly in a press conference following Nunes’s announcement of the canceled hearing that Nunes had previously tried to cancel or close the hearing, only to face pushback from Schiff.
The latest Post report is particularly noteworthy given concerns in recent days over Nunes’s possible coordination with the White House regarding his series of public disclosures on incidental collection. Yesterday, CNN reported that Nunes was seen on the White House grounds the night before his twin press conferences on March 22nd. Additionally, in his press conference on Friday, Schiff also suggested that Nunes had canceled the hearing after “strong pushback from the White House” following the first HPSCI open hearing, asking, “What other explanation can there be?”
Kevin Drum blogs at Mother Jones:
Earlier this morning I sketched out a possible compromise between Obamacare and Trumpcare that might have a chance of getting through Congress if everyone agrees to a plan that would rely on both Republican and Democratic votes. I consider the odds of such a thing small, but nevertheless it’s worth looking at why nearly everyone should find this idea attractive:
- Donald Trump gets a big win. Paul Ryan couldn’t get his plan through Congress, but then Trump steps in and pulls off a huge deal. His presidency is back on track.
- Republicans in Congress get an albatross off their backs. Right now, health care is a loser for them, and the Freedom Caucus is riding high. But if they pass a bipartisan plan, it sticks a finger in the eye of the FC ultras. And if they’re worried about their base, they don’t have to be. Trump will sell the hell out of the plan, and his fans will buy it.
- Democrats have to make some concessions, but in return they get stability and permanence—and the possibility of future enhancements—for a social welfare program they’ve been trying to get enacted for decades.
- The health care industry gets some certainty about the future, along with a system that promises to be a moneymaker for them.
Who are the losers in this deal? Hardly anyone. The ultras lose, but everyone wants them to lose. Rich people lose a bit because they continue paying a modest tax, but frankly, I haven’t noticed that rich people are all that upset about it. They care more about capital gains taxes and top marginal rates. Talk radio shouters lose a reliable audience pot stirrer, but they’ll support Trump in the end. And they have plenty of other ways of keeping their listeners at a fever pitch of outrage anyway.
Oh, and I almost forgot: . . .
Kevin Drum is on a roll. His new post includes a chart:
Excellent column. Read it now. Good take.
UPDATE: And read this one too, which begins:
It’s laughable watching President Trump whine endlessly this afternoon about how his health care bill didn’t get any Democratic votes. Not one! The Democrats just wouldn’t work with him to craft a bill! Boy, that sure makes things tough.
Needless to say, neither Trump nor Paul Ryan ever tried to bring Democrats into this bill. It was purely a Republican plan from the start, and neither of them wanted any Democratic input. That’s just the opposite of Obamacare, where Democrats tried mightily to get Republican buy-in, and still ended up getting no Republican votes in the end. Not one!
Anyway, Trump’s plan now is to wait for Obamacare to implode and then Democrats will have to do a deal. I guess it hasn’t occurred to him that he could do a deal with Democrats right now if he were really serious about fixing health care. But no. Trump says he intends to move on to tax reform, because that’s something he actually cares about.
In the meantime, it’s very unclear what will happen to Obamacare. With so much uncertainty surrounding it, it’s hard to say how insurance companies will respond. They might give up and pull out. Or they might stick it out and wait. It’s pretty close to a profitable business now, so there’s probably no urgency one way or the other for most of them. . .
Read the whole thing.
Apparently leaks and anonymous sources are absolutely terrible… unless the leak and the anonymous sources are advantageous to Republicans, in which case they are perfectly okay. Matthew Balin reports at Mediaite:
NBC’s Peter Alexander confronted White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday over an apparent double standard that President Donald Trump and his administration has regarding anonymous sources.
Alexander highlighted that “at CPAC, President Trump said people — quote, ‘shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use someone’s name.’ You said it does — quote, ‘a tremendous disservice.’”
The NBC correspondent continued that Rep. Devin Nunes “noted sources that he couldn’t create and provide publicly. So why when it’s politically advantageous is that use of sourcing okay; but when it’s politically damaging, it’s not okay?”
Spicer retorted by pointing out that Rep. Nunes “came out and briefed people on what he knew at the time, and said he was literally going to give further briefs and and would have further updates.”
The press secretary also emphasized that House Intelligence chairman was “vindicating the president, in saying there is something you need to know about the substance of the allegations that are being made against you.”
Alexander followed up by wondering, “If it had not had vindicated him, wouldn’t it have been just as important for the president to learn?”
Spicer shot back, “Sure, and I think maybe he would have. And then, you probably wouldn’t have had any concern with that, would you?”
Watch the entire exchange, … here]..
When the GOP takes over, the protection of the public starts rapidly to erode. Brian Fung reports in the Washington Post:
Senate lawmakers voted Thursday to repeal a historic set of rules aimed at protecting consumers’ online data from their own Internet providers, in a move that could make it easier for broadband companies to sell and share their customers’ usage information for advertising purposes.
The rules, which prohibit providers from abusing the data they gather on their customers as they browse the Web on cellphones and computers, were approved last year over objections from Republicans who argued the regulations went too far.
U.S. senators voted by a 50-48 margin to approve a joint resolution from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) that would prevent the Federal Communications Commission’s privacy rules from going into effect. The resolution also would bar the FCC from ever enacting similar consumer protections. It now heads to the House.
Industry groups welcomed the vote.
“Our industry remains committed to offering services that protect the privacy and security of the personal information of our customers,” said NCTA — The Internet and Television Association, a trade group representing major cable providers. [That seems to me to be the usual approach of companies who want to do something the public will dislike: they simply lie about what they’re doing because there is no penalty at all for lying, as President Trump repeatedly demonstrates. I do not believe the NCTA for one single second. – LG] “We support this step toward reversing the FCC’s misguided approach and look forward to restoring a consistent approach to online privacy protection that consumers want and deserve.” [No, they look forward to selling to anyone who will pay, everthing they can learn about you from monitoring your internet activity 24/7, which they can easily do through software: building detailed dossiers for each customer, selling the information for as much as they can get. And it’s profitable, because it can’t be a one-time purchase: the data are continually updated, so what you bought a few months ago is badly dated. – LG]
Consumer and privacy groups condemned the resolution.
“It is extremely disappointing that the Senate voted today to sacrifice the privacy rights of Americans in the interest of protecting the profits of major Internet companies, including Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon,” said Neema Singh Giuliani, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
The FCC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The agency’s rules are being debated as Internet providers — no longer satisfied with simply offering Web access — race to become online advertising giants as large as Google and Facebook. To deliver consumers from one website to another, Internet providers must see and understand which online destinations their customers wish to visit, whether that’s Netflix, WebMD or PornHub.
With that data, Internet providers would like to sell targeted advertising or even share that information with third-party marketers. But the FCC’s regulations place certain limits on the type of data Internet providers can share and under what circumstances. Under the rules, consumers may forbid their providers from sharing what the FCC deems “sensitive” information, such as app usage history and mobile location data.
Opponents of the regulation argue the FCC’s definition of sensitive information is far too broad and that it creates an imbalance between what’s expected of Internet providers and what’s allowed for Web companies such as Google. Separately from Congress, critics of the measure have petitioned the FCC to reconsider letting the rules go into effect, and the agency’s new Republican leadership has partly complied. In February, President Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, put a hold on a slice of the rules that would have forced Internet providers to better safeguard their customer data from hackers. [And that is quite revealing, don’t you think? The companies can’t be arsed to protect your data from hackers—and note that once this change (allowing ISPs to sell everything they can learn about you), there will be a LOT of your data on line, ripe for hackers. Of course, the ISPs don’t want to have to protect that data: it’s a big pain to try to keep it safe, and if it’s stolen, they really don’t suffer at all: the data will be renewed, but in the meantime, the hacker(s) and whoever they share the data with will know an awful lot about you. No biggie for the ISP, though; the apologies and promises to be made following a big loss of private customer data have already been written. No wonder they don’t want a law that will force them actually to protect the data. – LG]
The congressional resolution could make any further action by the FCC to review the rules unnecessary; Flake’s measure aims to nullify the FCC’s privacy rules altogether. Republicans argue that even if the FCC’s power to make rules on Internet privacy is curtailed, state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission could still hold Internet providers accountable for future privacy abuses.
But Democrats say that preemptive rules are necessary to protect consumers before their information gets out against their will.
“At a time when our personal data is more vulnerable than ever, it’s baffling that Senate Republicans would eliminate the few privacy protections Americans have today,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the top liberal on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Pallone added in a statement Thursday that he hoped his House Republican colleagues “will exercise better judgment” when it becomes their turn to vote on the resolution. . . .