Personal internet browsing history in danger with deregulation

JOSH MAASBERG, Evergreen columnist

The latest iteration of the GOP’s deregulatory agenda should raise serious concerns for anyone who values their privacy.

Republicans in the House and Senate voted in S.J.Res.34 late last month, nullifying a broadband consumer privacy rule titled “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services,” which was submitted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last December.

This rule would have applied customer privacy requirements to Internet service providers (ISPs) that “requires disclosures and affirmative consent” for sharing their customers’ confidential information.

The joint resolution passed 215-205 in the House, and 50-48 in the Senate with staunch opposition from Democrats in both chambers of Congress.

Now, all your favorite corporations, like Comcast and Spectrum (and anyone else), can openly cash in on your browsing history, shopping habits, location and any other metadata they can extract from your online activity.

They get to charge you for an internet connection, collect your personal data and then charge the content providers to buy your data.

There is simply no compelling government interest or benefit in forcing consumers to give up their personal information to a corporation for the sole purpose of selling it.

But corporation lobbyists have Republicans voting otherwise.

The telecommunications industry is one of the largest lobbying groups in U.S. history — and Republicans in Congress are more than happy to betray the interest of American citizens in exchange for hefty campaign contributions from “big data.”

You don’t need to look much further than the dollars they receive from these companies to realize what is actually going on.

Nonetheless, Republican sponsors of the bill reason that its intentions are to “protect consumers from overreaching internet regulation,” as purported by Senator Jeff Flake, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Privacy, Technology and Law.

Apparently, Americans need to be protected from not having their data sold without their permission.

Millennials and college students should be especially concerned about this gross attack on privacy, considering how integrated technology has been throughout our lives, and the digital footprint we leave behind that is profoundly unique to our generation.

Students like sophomore civil engineering major Dylan Oum aren’t convinced this self-proclaimed protection from regulation is in his best interest.

“Even if people don’t have anything to hide,” he said, “I don’t think they should be comfortable with companies being allowed to know everything about them, and profit from that, without their consent.”

Think about it. Our legislative body just voted to continue to allow multi-billion dollar corporations to sell the means by which to better understand and influence us.

That should scare you.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect is how they used the Congressional Review Act, which allows a simple majority vote (immune to filibuster) to review a rule before it goes into effect, to prevent the FCC from issuing “substantially similar” regulations in the future.

That means any similar consumer broadband regulations would have to be introduced by Congress, in which Republicans hold both chambers.

Retaliatory responses are already underway.

The Minnesota State Senate has added their own broadband consumer protections to their economic development bill on its way to the Minnesota House, something that legislators in Washington State should definitely consider.

Max Temkin, creator of “Cards Against Humanity,” tweeted he would “buy the browser history of every congressman and congressional aide and publish it.”

This deregulatory agenda should make it crystal clear that Republicans don’t care about your privacy or concerns — just about how much money they can get from their corporate masters.

Josh Maasberg is a sophomore political science major from Murrieta, California. He can be contacted at 335-2290 or by [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of The Office of Student Media.