Last Friday, I warned that the Senate had voted to overturn internet privacy rules passed by the FCC during the Obama administration, which prevented internet providers from sharing your browsing history with corporations without your consent, and that the House would vote next.
Yesterday afternoon, the House voted to rescind the rules. Donald Trump will soon sign the bill into law, and your browsing history can then be sold without your consent to the highest bidder.
Former FCC chair Tom Wheeler, whose joy you may recall when Net Neutrality was approved, wrote a piece for the New York Times detailing how dreadful this legislation truly is.
The bill not only gives cable companies and wireless providers free rein to do what they like with your browsing history, shopping habits, your location, and other information gleaned from your online activity, but it would also prevent the Federal Communications Commission from ever again establishing similar consumer privacy protections.Wheeler further notes that Trump's FCC also voted to "stay requirements that internet service providers must take 'reasonable measures' to protect confidential information they hold on their customers, such as Social Security numbers and credit card information. This is not a hypothetical risk—in 2015 AT&T was fined $25 million for shoddy practices that allowed employees to steal and sell the private information of 280,000 customers."
The bill is an effort by the F.C.C.'s new Republican majority and congressional Republicans to overturn a simple but vitally important concept — namely that the information that goes over a network belongs to you as the consumer, not to the network hired to carry it. It's an old idea: For decades, in both Republican and Democratic administrations, federal rules have protected the privacy of the information in a telephone call. In 2016, the F.C.C., which I led as chairman under President Barack Obama, extended those same protections to the internet.
To my Democratic colleagues and me, the digital tracks that a consumer leaves when using a network are the property of that consumer. They contain private information about personal preferences, health problems and financial matters. Our Republican colleagues on the commission argued the data should be available for the network to sell.
He also notes that "among the many calamities engendered by the circus atmosphere" of the corrupt Trump administration is that these grievous erosions of our online privacy rights are going virtually unnoticed, as everyone has been "riveted by the Russian hacking of the election and the attempted repeal of Obamacare." Not to mention conflicts of interest, the twice-attempted Muslim ban, and Trump's incessant stream of dishonest and alarming tweets.
Let us all take a moment to appreciate that Trump's mendacious tweeting about President Obama wiretapping his phone (which now 47 percent of Americans believe to be true) was commanding public attention while the Republican Congressional majority was quietly conferring the right to internet service providers to essentially legally spy on us and profit handsomely from it.
And now here we are. And Net Neutrality is next. Take action now.