The GOP House and Senate both voted to remove privacy protection so that ISPs can track your browsing history (and, presumably, your on-line purchases) and sell that information on the open market. So this initiative, to purchase the browsing history of those voting in favor, is very interesting.
Tom Cahill reports in Resistance Report:
Republicans in Congress just voted to allow Americans’ browser history to be bought and sold. A genius crowdfunding campaign wants to use that against them.
The website searchinternethistory.com is attempting to raise $1 million in order to put in bids to purchase the internet history of leading Republicans and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) members. The first histories the site aims to buy are those of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
“If it takes a million dollars to get real change, I am sure a million people are willing to donate $1 to help ensure their private data stays private,” wrote Adam McElhaney, who launched a GoFundMe campaign for the endeavor.
McElhaney clarified on the GoFundMe campaign’s site that while he understands the privacy risks of using social media, the privacy rules Congress just eliminated goes far beyond what he feels is acceptable.
“I understand that what I put on the Internet is out there and not private. Those are the risks you assume. I’m not ashamed of what I put out on the Internet,” he wrote. “However, I don’t think that what I lookup on the Internet, what sites I visit, my browsing habits, should be bought and sold to whoever. Without my consent.”
McElhaney, who describes himself as “a privacy activist & net neutrality Advocate,” argues that since both houses of Congress have passed bills allowing anyone’s browser history to be sold and purchased by major telecom giants like Verizon, that the American people should be able to buy the browser records for their elected officials. If successful, the site aims to publish a searchable database of browser history for every member of Congress who voted to gut former President Barack Obama’s regulations prohibiting corporations from viewing Americans’ browser histories.
“Everything from their medical, pornographic, to their financial and infidelity. Anything they have looked at, searched for, or visited on the Internet will now be available for everyone to comb through,” the site promises, next to a survey of which public official’s browser history should be published first. “Since we didn’t get an opportunity to vote on whether our private and personal browsing history should be bought and sold, I wanted to show our legislators what a democracy is like. So, I’m giving you the opportunity to vote on whose history gets bought first.”
“Help me raise money to buy the histories of those who took away your right to privacy,” McElhaney adds. . .
They are also looking for contributions of legal talent. I contributed money.
See also: I Spent A Week Trying To Make The Broadband Lobby Answer A Simple Question About Selling Your Data, by Sam Biddle, which appears in The Intercept:
House Republicans last night voted to overturn an FCC rule that bars your internet provider from telling advertisers which websites you visit and what you search for in exchange for money; the Senate voted along the same lines last week. The decisions were immediately praised by lobbying groups like the NCTA, which represents broadband companies like Verizon and Comcast — and which for some reason framed the gutting of federal privacy regulations as good for privacy, a choice that the organization seemingly cannot explain, no matter how many times you ask.
The NCTA’s statement after last week’s vote read as follows:
“We appreciate today’s Senate action to repeal unwarranted FCC rules that deny consumers consistent privacy protection online and violate competitive neutrality. … Our industry remains committed to offering services that protect the privacy and security of the personal information of our customers. We support this step towards reversing the FCC’s misguided approach and look forward to restoring a consistent approach to online privacy protection that consumers want and deserve.”
Emphasis added. It should be immediately puzzling to anyone reading that statement how the broadband industry “remains committed” to personal privacy while also encouraging (and celebrating) a regulatory change that would allow your ISP to make a buck by telling a third party which websites you visit so that they can try to sell you things. Privacy is generally understood as a state defined by offering less disclosure about oneself, not more. Seeking clarity, I asked the NCTA to explain how it squares this commitment with its apparent antithesis. What’s ensued has been a week-long semantic maze navigated by myself and Joy Sims, a (very patient) spokesperson for the NCTA, reproduced below: . . .