UPDATE — 4:27 p.m. EDT: Responding to Congress’ passage of a bill reversing federal internet privacy rules, two crowdfunding campaigns have kicked off to raise money to buy the browsing histories of Capitol Hill politicians who voted for the bill.
Both fundraisers are using the GoFundMe platform, one authored by actor Misha Collins and another by Tennessee political activist Adam McElhaney.
So far, McElhaney’s page has raised over $170,000 from more than 11,000 people.
The Republican-held House of Representatives voted Tuesday to roll back former President Obama’s internet privacy rules. The bill will now advance to President Trump’s desk where is he is expected to sign the legislation into law.
The new law will allow internet providers to collect information on people’s browsing history and sell the data to interested parties.
During President Obama’s tenure, the White House guarded individual internet privacy rights. Trump, who advocates pro-business policies, is ushering in a new era where consumers will be hard pressed to stop companies from from accessing and profiting from their personal information.
Companies like Comcast had to get customers’ permission to sell their data under the Obama-era rules. Rep. Michael Capuano, (D-Mass.) who voted against the bill, said it was a violation of U.S. citizens’ privacy rights and pointed out that companies should not be able to know and exploit purchasing habits
“Just last week I bought underwear on the internet. Why should you know what size I take? Or the color?” Capuano asked. “They are going to sell it to the underwear companies.”
The ACLU took at less amusing look at the matter and urged Trump to veto the legislation in their statement post-vote.
“It is extremely disappointing that Congress is sacrificing the privacy rights of Americans in the interest of protecting the profits of major internet companies including Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. President Trump now has the opportunity to veto this resolution and show he is not just a president for CEOs but for all Americans.”
Companies who supported the regulation rollback say the the Federal Communications Commission overstepped its bounds with the privacy rules, and Trump is restoring appropriate government regulations. Those who supported the rollback also say that consumers are already protected under other rules, and this bill evens out unfair advantages.
Jonathan Saplter, who is the CEO of USTelecom, explained their point of view:
“Today’s action is another step to remove unnecessary rules and regulations that handicap economic growth and innovation, and moves the country one step closer to ensuring that consumers’ private information is protected uniformly across the entire internet ecosystem,” said Spalter. “Consumers can rest easy today knowing their privacy is protected under existing FCC authority, which requires companies to keep consumers’ data safe.”
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who sponsored identical legislation originating in the House, has taken $693,000 from the telecommunications industry over her seven terms in Congress, including over $200,000 from AT&T and Verizon alone.
“Rep. Blackburn hasn’t done a single thing that crosses the phone and cable lobby,” said Tim Karr of online privacy nonprofit Free Press. “She has been, for as long as I’ve known her, a champion of whatever agenda they put before her, and even when it means going against issues that benefit her constituents.”
The final vote tally was 215–205, with 15 Republicans breaking party ranks to vote against the bill.
[The Hill] [New York Times] [Reuters] [Vocativ] [Image courtesy Shutterstock via Forbes]