The most alarming bill no one is talking about
With all the congressional drama of health care reform, while no one was watching, Congress voted to reverse Internet privacy rules. These rules required the big Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to ask your permission before they collect your Internet browsing data. While the nation was focusing on other high profile legislative matters, this bill slipped under the radar and became law.
Big Brother can now watch and track your Internet browsing habits.
The Washington Post headline: “The House just voted to wipe away the FCC’s landmark Internet privacy protections.” With a single and swift swipe of the legislative finger, your Internet browsing history is for sale, to the highest bidder.
The Washington Post article asserts that passage of what is erroneously termed the Internet Privacy bill “empowers Internet providers to enter the $83 billion market for online advertising, where the ability to collect, store, share and sell consumers’ behavioral information is directly linked to companies’ bottom line.”
Congress voted to allow big Internet Service Providers, such as Comcast and AT&T, to gather and use your browsing information any way they wish, without your consent. Why? One main argument: Companies like Facebook, Netflix and Google already gather your browsing history without permission. The difference is in the details.
Google only has the right to monitor you when you are on a Google product (like YouTube, Search or Gmail). Facebook and Netflix can only follow your browsing habits while you are on their websites. Since the ISPs are the portal to the Internet, they have unlimited access to your entire online activity.
Those in support of this bill argued that passage leveled the playing field for ISPs. One thing is correct, there is now a level playing field for the telecom companies who lobbied Congress. But, where is the level playing field for us, the consumers?
Congress picked their team — the ISP’s, and the American people were left on the sidelines.
A 2016 PEW research report that 74 percent of American respondents agree it is “very important” to them that they be in control of who can get information about them, and 65 percent say it is “very important” to them to control what information is gathered about them. Internet privacy matters to the American public. It should matter to Congress, too.
What will ISPs do with all this private data they now collect about you? What will they do with the scores of data about what you buy, what websites you visit, online games you play, even messages you send? Advocates argue the companies won’t sell the data, just use it for internal advertising purposes. Opponents argue that it’s a slippery slope to more invasion of our privacy. Do you really want to take a for-profit company at their word? They are incentivized to sell the information they are collecting on us.
One thing is for sure, the telecom industry poured millions into campaign accounts for members of the House and Senate. An article published by TheVerge.com, based on figures from the National Institute of Money in State Politics, calculates the telecom industry donated, in Tennessee alone, at least $280,000 to representatives and senators. The ISPs stand to reap grand financial rewards from this groundbreaking, precedent-setting move.
Enough with the smokescreens. Congress is not working for us — they are working for themselves and their donors.