Republicans Unite to Wage War on Internet Privacy -- And How to Fight Back
March 31, 2017
Jacob Kastrenakes / The Verge & T.C. Sottek / The Verge & The Raw Story & The Common Call
The House of Representatives passed a resolution today overturning an Obama-era FCC rule that required Internet providers to get customers' permission before sharing their browsing history with other companies. The rules also required Internet providers to protect that data from hackers and inform customers of any breaches. Internet providers now just need a signature from President Trump before they're free to take, share, and even sell your web browsing history without your permission.
Congress Just Cleared the Way for
Internet Providers to Sell your Web-browsing History
The resolution is now off to the president's desk
Jacob Kastrenakes / The Verge
(March 28, 2017) -- Internet providers now just need a signature from President Trump before they're free to take, share, and even sell your web browsing history without your permission.
The House of Representatives passed a resolution today overturning an Obama-era FCC rule that required Internet providers to get customers' permission before sharing their browsing history with other companies. The rules also required Internet providers to protect that data from hackers and inform customers of any breaches.
The resolution was first passed by the Senate last week and now heads to the president, who's expected to sign it. At that point, there'll only be a vague baseline of privacy rules governing Internet providers and some promises from them not to misbehave.
It's hard to see this as anything but a major loss for consumers. While reversing the FCC's privacy rules will technically just maintain the status quo -- Internet providers have actually been able to sell your web browsing data forever (it's just not a thing we think about all that much) -- they were about to lose permission to keep doing it, unless they got explicit consent or anonymized the info.
This is an increasingly important issue as Americans spend more and more time online -- and keep more and more devices with them at all times. Internet providers can see what sites you visit and what apps you use, and they can see how long you're using them for. That information is extremely revealing, and it's easy to imagine most people would prefer to keep their reading habits private.
"The consequences of passing this resolution are clear: broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast, and others will be able to sell your personal information to the highest bidder without your permission," said Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) on the House floor this afternoon. "And no one will be able to protect you, not even the Federal Trade Commission that our friends on the other side of the aisle keep talking about."
So why did Congress block the rules from being implemented? Republicans bought into Internet providers' arguments that the rules discriminated against them and could confuse consumers. The rules would prevent Internet providers from selling your web browsing history even though, the argument goes, websites like Google and Facebook would remain free to do the same thing. ISPs say that's unfair and makes it hard for consumers to understand who gets to see their browsing data.
But the argument is extremely misleading, if not outright wrong: Google and Facebook can't see your web browsing history, they can only see what you click on while you're on their own websites or on websites connected to their ad networks.
Meanwhile, Internet providers get to see a bit of nearly everything you do and visit; and even with the rules in place, they have every right to build the kind of ad-tracking websites that Google and Facebook have built. It's just hard work, and they don't want to do it.
The rules, if anything, put Internet providers on a level playing field with companies like Facebook and Google. But Republicans don't like that it creates more work for them. "These rules do little to enhance privacy but clearly add a layer of red tape on innovators and job creators," Representative Greg Walden (R-OR), chair of the House's commerce committee, said ahead of the vote. The rules, he said, "have the potential to stifle one of the most innovative sectors of our economy."
This was a common line of argument from Republican representatives, who continually conflated Internet providers with companies that build businesses connected to the Internet.
They frequently took issue with creating a distinction between these two types of companies, despite the fact the huge distinction exists: ISPs like Comcast essentially create digital roads, while companies like Google create hugely innovative businesses along those roads. There's good reason to treat the two differently.
Republicans and Internet providers also complained that the FCC's rules didn't perfectly align with the Federal Trade Commission's privacy framework, which governed Internet providers up until the 2015 net neutrality order went into effect. In reality, the differences are slight -- the real argument here is just over ISP's ability to share your browsing history.
Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), chair of the House subcommittee on communications and technology, actually claimed that removing the rules would improve privacy by closing that distinction. "Consumer privacy will continue to be protected and will actually be enhanced by removing the uncertainty and confusion these rules will create," she said.
The vote was surprisingly close, coming in at 215 in favor of the resolution and 205 against; 15 Republicans even voted in opposition.
With these rules all-but killed, the FCC will now be left without any firm regulations for Internet providers on the books. The commission may now go about proposing and passing a weaker set of restrictions that better match up with what the FTC has on the books.
In a statement following the vote, FCC chairman Ajit Pai indicated his approval of Congress' action, saying the rules -- which he voted against last year -- represented commission "overreach" and were "designed to benefit one group of favored companies over another group of disfavored companies."
Pai reiterated his intention to realign the FCC's rules with the FTC's weaker privacy framework. But how that'll happen is unclear. Pai says the FCC will work with the FTC, but he also says he'd prefer to just kill the 2015 net neutrality order so that the FCC doesn't have a say over privacy at all.
In an added blow to privacy advocates, the FCC won't be able to pass privacy restrictions protecting all web browsing history again, since the resolution prevents it. Though the commission will, it seems, still be able to block Internet providers from sharing info related to children, banking, or medical history, which the FTC considered sensitive in the first place.
Disclosure: Comcast is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge's parent company.
The 265 Members of Congress Who Sold You Out to ISPs,
And How Much It Cost To Buy Them
They betrayed you for chump change
T.C. Sottek / The Verge
(March 29, 2017) -- Republicans in Congress just voted to reverse a landmark FCC privacy rule that opens the door for ISPs to sell customer data. Lawmakers provided no credible reason for this being in the interest of Americans, except for vague platitudes about "consumer choice" and "free markets," as if consumers at the mercy of their local Internet monopoly are craving to have their web history quietly sold to marketers and any other third party willing to pay.
The only people who seem to want this are the people who are going to make lots of money from it. (Hint: they work for companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.) Incidentally, these people and their companies routinely give lots of money to members of Congress.
So here is a list of the lawmakers who voted to betray you, and how much money they received from the telecom industry in their most recent election cycle.
Note on the data below: Donations include contributions from corporations in the telecom industry and employees of those corporations (individual and non-individual contributions). The largest donors tend to be corporations which contributed funds to the candidate and/ or the candidate's leadership organization (PAC).
All figures only reflect donations tallied for the candidate's most recent election -- many have received total sums much larger than the figure reflected over the course of their career in Congress. Figures are from federal election data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics (www.followthemoney.org).
Additionally, it's important to note that the communications industry is one of the largest lobbying groups in US history; Internet providers and the telephone companies before them are notorious for spreading wealth across the aisle. Regardless, one party seems more responsive to the industry's demands.
MEMBER PARTY STATE TOTAL
Alexander, Lamar Republican TN $86,400
Barrasso, John Republican WY $63,000
Blunt, Roy Republican MO $185,550
Boozman, John Republican AR $56,450
Burr, Richard Republican NC $58,500
Capito, Shelley Republican WV $24,675
Cassidy, Bill Republican LA $34,909
Cochran, Thad Republican MS $123,750
Collins, Susan Republican ME $57,550
Corker, Bob Republican TN $43,600
Cornyn, John Republican TX $148,800
Cotton, Tom Republican AR $70,025
Crapo, Mike Republican ID $11,000
Cruz, Ted Republican TX $40,840
Daines, Steve Republican MT $38,700
Enzi, Mike Republican WY $45,100
Ernst, Joni Republican IA $28,200
Fischer, Debra Republican NE $21,850
Flake, Jeff Republican AZ $27,955
Gardner, Cory Republican CO $95,023
Graham, Lindsey Republican SC $74,522
Grassley, Chuck Republican IA $135,125
Hatch, Orrin Republican UT $106,750
Heller, Dean Republican NV $78,950
Hoeven, John Republican ND $25,800
Inhofe, Jim Republican OK $38,000
Johnson, Ron Republican WI $123,652
Kennedy, John Republican LA $1,000
Lankford, James Republican OK $21,000
Lee, Mike Republican UT $60,913
McCain, John Republican AZ $84,125
McConnell, Mitch Republican KY $251,110
Moran, Jerry Republican KS $130,950
Murkowski, Lisa Republican AK $66,250
Perdue, David Republican GA $37,000
Portman, Rob Republican OH $89,350
Risch, Jim Republican ID $27,000
Roberts, Pat Republican KS $100,200
Rounds, Mike Republican SD $40,166
Rubio, Marco Republican FL $75,535
Sasse, Benjamin Republican NE $31,800
Scott, Tim Republican SC $60,200
Shelby, Richard Republican AL $27,000
Strange, Luther Republican AL $0*
Sullivan, Daniel Republican AK $10,550
Thune, John Republican SD $215,000
Tillis, Thom Republican NC $41,220
Toomey, Patrick Republican PA $143,456
Wicker, Roger Republican MS $151,800
Young, Todd Republican IN $28,670
*Senator Strange was appointed to Congress in February 2017 to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions' seat.
US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MEMBER PARTY STATE DISTRICT TOTAL
Abraham, Ralph Republican LA 5th $5,750
Aderholt, Robert Republican AL 4th $26,500
Allen, Rick Republican GA 12th $9,500
Amodei, Mark Republican NV 2nd $22,000
Arrington, Jodey Republican TX 19th $8,450
Babin, Brian Republican TX 36th $8,000
Bacon, Donald Republican NE 2nd $7,000
Banks, Jim Republican IN 3rd $12,100
Barletta, Lou Republican PA 11th $14,700
Barr, Andy Republican KY 6th $28,400
Barton, Joe Republican TX 6th $39,750
Bergman, Jack Republican MI 1st $21,200
Biggs, Andy Republican AZ 5th $5,000
Bilirakis, Gus Republican FL 12th $55,000
Bishop, Mike Republican MI 8th $40,500
Bishop, Rob Republican UT 1st $5,500
Black, Diane Republican TN 6th $27,750
Blackburn, Marsha Republican TN 7th $84,000
Blum, Rodney Republican IA 1st $5,500
Bost, Mike Republican IL 12th $29,750
Brady, Kevin Republican TX 8th $20,000
Brat, David Republican VA 7th $6,000
Bridenstine, Jim Republican OK 1st $1,000
Brooks, Susan Republican IN 5th $44,300
Buchanan, Vern Republican FL 16th $18,900
Buck, Ken Republican CO 4th $15,750
Bucshon, Larry Republican IN 8th $33,000
Budd, Theodore Republican NC 13th $10,000
Burgess, Michael Republican TX 26th $39,500
Byrne, Bradley Republican AL 1st $17,500
Calvert, Ken Republican CA 42nd $12,000
Carter, Buddy Republican GA 1st $12,250
Carter, John Republican TX 31st $22,500
Chabot, Steven Republican OH 1st $25,500
Chaffetz, Jason Republican UT 3rd $38,100
Cheney, Liz Republican WY 1st $18,400
Cole, Tom Republican OK 4th $14,000
Collins, Doug Republican GA 9th $42,850
Collins, Chris Republican NY 27th $57,500
Comer, James Republican KY 1st $14,750
Comstock, Barbara Republican VA 10th $56,457
Conaway, Mike Republican TX 11th $18,500
Cook, Paul Republican CA 8th $15,000
Costello, Ryan Republican PA 6th $38,750
Cramer, Kevin Republican ND 1st $71,750
Crawford, Eric Republican AR 1st $9,000
Culberson, John Republican TX 7th $8,000
Curbelo, Carlos Republican FL 26th $45,700
Davis, Rodney Republican IL 13th $49,000
Denham, Jeffrey Republican CA 10th $47,000
Dent, Charles Republican PA 15th $25,200
DeSantis, Ron Republican FL 6th $21,634
DesJarlais, Scott Republican TN 4th $3,000
Diaz-Balart, Mario Republican FL 25th $26,500
Donovan, Daniel Republican NY 11th $16,000
Duncan, Jeff Republican SC 3rd $12,610
Dunn, Neal Republican FL 2nd $13,750
Emmer, Thomas Republican MN 6th $18,500
Farenthold, Blake Republican TX 27th $19,000
Ferguson, Anderson Republican GA 3rd $7,000
Fitzpatrick, Brian** Republican PA 8th $32,600
Fleischmann, Chuck Republican TN 3rd $18,000
Flores, Bill Republican TX 17th $40,500
Fortenberry, Jeff Republican NE 1st $3,500
Foxx, Virginia Republican NC 5th $13,250
Franks, Trent Republican AZ 8th $16,500
Frelinghuysen, Rodney Republican NJ 11th $55,456
Gaetz, Matt Republican FL 1st $7,000
Gallagher, Mike Republican WI 8th $16,019
Garrett, Tom* Republican VA 5th $3,250
Gibbs, Robert Republican OH 7th $8,000
Gohmert, Louie Republican TX 1st $8,000
Goodlatte, Bob Republican VA 6th $73,950
Gosar, Paul Republican AZ 4th $2,000
Gowdy, Harold Republican SC 4th $15,750
Granger, Kay Republican TX 12th $15,000
Graves, John Republican GA 14th $34,000
Graves, Sam Republican MO 6th $31,000
Griffith, Tim Republican AR 2nd $16,915
Griffith, Morgan Republican VA 9th $36,500
Grothman, Glenn Republican WI 6th $10,600
Guthrie, Steven Republican KY 2nd $81,500
Harper, Gregg Republican MS 3rd $33,800
Harriis, Andy Republican MD 1st $3,000
Hartzler, Vicki Republican MO 4th $10,500
Hensarling, Jeb Republican TX 5th $10,000
Hice, Jody Republican GA 10th $6,000
Higgins, Clay Republican LA 3rd $300
Holding, George Republican NC 2nd $31,100
Hollingsworth, Trey Republican IN 9th $10,000
Hudson, Richard Republican NC 8th $45,400
Huizenga, Bill Republican MI 2nd $7,500
Hultgreen, Randy Republican IL 14th $10,000
Hunter, Duncan Republican CA 50th $19,000
Hurd, William Republican TX 23rd $63,000
Issa, Darrell Republican CA 49th $66,275
Jenkins, Lynn Republican KS 2nd $34,750
Jenkins, Evan Republican WV 3rd $10,000
Johnson, Bill Republican OH 6th $56,500
Johnson, Sam Republican TX 3rd $16,700
Jordan, James Republican OH 4th $24,750
Joyce, David Republican OH 14th $16,500
Katko, John Republican NY 24th $32,250
Kelly, Trent Republican MS 1st $3,300
Kelly, Mike Republican PA 3rd $34,700
King, Steve Republican IA 4th $20,500
King, Peter Republican NY 2nd $9,000
Kinzinger, Adam Republican IL 16th $75,250
Knight, Steve Republican CA 25th $32,500
Kustoff, David Republican TN 8th $16,300
Labrador, Raul Republican ID 1st $10,000
LaHood, Darin Republican IL 18th $15,500
LaMalfa, Doug Republican CA 1st $5,000
Lamborn, Doug Republican CO 5th $28,400
Lance, Leonard Republican NJ 7th $43,000
Latta, Bob Republican OH 5th $91,000
Lewis, Jason Republican MN 2nd $10,500
LoBiondo, Frank Republican NJ 2nd $14,500
Long, Billy Republican MO 7th $57,250
Loudermilk, Barry Republican GA 11th $8,000
Love, Mia Republican UT 4th $16,500
Lucas, Frank Republican OK 3rd $14,500
Luetkemeyer, Blaine Republican MO 3rd $21,000
MacArthur, Tom Republican NJ 3rd $19,000
Marchant, Kenny Republican TX 24th $12,000
Marshall, Roger Republican KS 1st $20,500
Massie, Thomas Republican KY 4th $2,750
Mast, Brian Republican FL 18th $10,500
McCarthy, Kevin Republican CA 23rd $99,100
McCaul, Michael Republican TX 10th $37,200
McHenry, Patrick Republican NC 10th $51,000
McKinley, David Republican WV 1st $24,500
McSally, Martha Republican AZ 2nd $40,500
Meadows, Mark Republican NC 11th $4,000
Meehan, Patrick Republican PA 7th $64,200
Messer, Luke Republican IN 6th $18,750
Mitchell, Paul** Republican MI 10th $10,000
McMorris-Rogers, Cathy** Republican WA 5th $75,900
Moolenaar, John Republican MI 4th $12,500
Mooney, Alexander Republican WV 2nd $6,000
Mullin, Markwayne Republican OK 2nd $47,250
Murphy, Timothy Republican PA 18th $26,000
Newhouse, Daniel Republican WA 4th $10,000
Noem, Kristi Republican SD 1st $38,200
Nunes, Devin Republican CA 22nd $37,750
Olson, Pete Republican TX 22nd $57,500
Palazzo, Steven Republican MS 4th $11,100
Palmer, Gary Republican AL 6th $2,000
Paulsen, Erik Republican MN 3rd $50,500
Pearce, Steve Republican NM 2nd $20,400
Perry, Scott Republican PA 4th $17,000
Poe, Ted Republican TX 2nd $23,000
Poliquin, Bruce Republican ME 2nd $47,500
Posey, Bill Republican FL 8th $3,000
Ratcliffe, John Republican TX 4th $24,500
Reed, Thomas Republican NY 23rd $31,500
Renacci, Jim Republican OH 16th $48,000
Rice, Hugh Republican SC 7th $18,500
Roby, Martha Republican AL 2nd $33,200
Roe, Phil Republican TN 1st $500
Rogers, Mike Republican AL 3rd $25,000
Rogers, Hal Republican KY 5th $12,500
Rohrabacher, Dana Republican CA 48th $1,350
Rokita, Todd Republican IN 4th $20,200
Rooney, Laurence Republican FL 19th $16,625
Rooney, Tom Republican FL 17th $19,000
Roskam, Peter Republican IL 6th $33,600
Ross, Dennis Republican FL 15th $17,000
Rothfus, Keith Republican PA 12th $30,900
Rouzer, David Republican NC 7th $15,000
Royce, Edward Republican CA 39th $14,000
Russell, Steven Republican OK 5th $16,450
Rutherford, John Republican FL 4th $6,000
Scalise, Steve Republican LA 1st $121,750
Schweikert, David Republican AZ 6th $4,000
Scott, James Republican GA 8th $6,000
Sensenbrenner, Jim Republican WI 5th $30,000
Sessions, Pete Republican TX 32nd $40,400
Shimkus, John Republican IL 15th $104,425
Shuster, Bill Republican PA 9th $35,500
Smith, Jason Republican MO 8th $47,500
Smith, Adrian Republican NE 3rd $28,500
Smith, Christopher Republican NJ 4th $6,000
Smith, Lamar Republican TX 21st $56,200
Smucker, Lloyd Republican PA 16th $8,000
Stewart, Chris Republican UT 2nd $12,500
Stivers, Steve Republican OH 15th $27,000
Taylor, Scott** Republican VA 2nd $14,000
Tenney, Claudia Republican NY 22nd $8,500
Thompson, Glenn Republican PA 5th $16,500
Thornberry, Mac Republican TX 13th $32,025
Tiberi, Patrick Republican OH 12th $53,250
Tipton, Scott Republican CO 3rd $23,500
Trott, Dave Republican MI 11th $12,500
Turner, Mike Republican OH 10th $6,000
Upton, Fred Republican MI 6th $108,250
Valadao, David Republican CA 21st $37,400
Wagner, Ann Republican MO 2nd $45,750
Walberg, Timothy Republican MI 7th $38,500
Walden, Gregory Republican OR 2nd $155,100
Walker, Bradley Republican NC 6th $16,750
Walorski, Jackie Republican IN 2nd $21,250
Walters, Mimi Republican CA 45th $47,450
Weber, Randy Republican TX 14th $4,000
Webster, Daniel Republican FL 11th $2,500
Wenstrup, Brad Republican OH 2nd $9,400
Westerman, Bruce Republican AR 4th $11,000
Williams, Roger Republican TX 25th $5,500
Wilson, Joe Republican SC 2nd $11,500
Wittman, Rob Republican VA 1st $11,050
Womack, Steve Republican AR 3rd $15,500
Woodall, Rob Republican GA 7th $9,250
Yoho, Ted Republican FL: 3rd $4,000
Young, Don Republican AK 1st $28,650
Young, David Republican IA 3rd $41,750
* Data for this representative obtained from the Virginia Public Access Project.
** Data for this representative obtained from Open Secrets.
Turnabout Is Fair Play: Activist Raising Funds
To Buy And Publish GOP Senators' Online Browsing Histories
The Raw Story & The Common Call
(March 30, 2017) – Tuesday, Republicans in the House of Representatives joined Republicans in the Senate to get rid of consumer privacy rights. With the election of Donald Trump and other Republicans, the chance to do some real schilling for big telecoms at the expense of citizens was too great for them to pass up.
After the Republican Senate voted last week to do their part, a net-neutrality advocate in Chattanooga, Tennessee named Adam McElhaney decided to start a GoFundMe page to raise funds to purchase online info on the very Republican politicians who sold out the American public to private privacy privateers. McElhaney was hoping to collect around $10,000. On March 31, after just five days, McElhaney has raised more than $182,800.
Here is Adam McElhaney's statement from his GoFundMe site":
I am Adam McElhaney, a privacy activist & net neutrality advocate from Chattanooga, Tennessee. I think that your private Internet history should be yours. I also believe your Internet should be neutral.
I am raising money to help secure those freedoms. It is my ultimate hope that we will be able to use the donations to restore our right to privacy.
I have laid out a plan on our course of action. This isn't going to be easy and this will not be quick. I'm going to continue fighting for you.
Should something happen and I fail you, I want you to know that this money belongs to you and our cause. I have no intentions of keeping a nickel. I have no intentions of withdrawing any money until I am certain I can deliver.
GoFundMe let me know that offering to route certain people's donations to different organizations is complex. That said, if we can't buy the data in the end for whatever reason, we'll send funds to EFF [the Electronic Freedom Foundation] so they can continue fighting for this mission. Refunds will still be possible too.
It will be your choice. But I am not giving up and neither should you. We are stronger united.
What Started It All:
Thanks to the Senate for passing S.J.Res 34, now your Internet history can be bought.
I plan on purchasing the Internet histories of all legislators, congressmen, executives, and their families and make them easily searchable at searchinternethistory.com.
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.
Help me raise money to buy the histories of those who took away your right to privacy for just thousands of dollars from telephone and ISPs. Your private data will be bought and sold to marketing companies, law enforcement.
Let's turn the tables. Let's buy THEIR history and make it available.
Whose Internet History Should Be Purchased First?
Voting is now closed and the results are in!
Total Votes: 66,997
Speaker of the House
Total Votes: 23,773 (35%)
Total Votes: 17,582 (26%)
Senate Majority Leader
Total Votes: 15,545 (23%)
Chairman of the FCC
Total Votes: 9,750 (14%)
Check me out on Twitter @windmarble or Facebook to see who I am. I didn't censor any of my accounts or pictures. What you see is what you get. Yes, I use social media.
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. 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.
Join me in the fight to turn the tables and do whatever it takes to take back your privacy.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.