Plans to Buy US Politicians’ Internet Browser History

By Collin Bailey,
Technology & Innovation Writer

On March 28 2017, Congress voted to reverse an Obama era FCC rule that required internet providers to gain consent of their subscribers before selling their personal browsing information to data collection and advertising companies. The vote means that various telecommunication companies such as Verizon, and AT&T can now sell their customers personal information without getting the consent of such customers. President Trump is expected to sign the bill when it reaches his desk this upcoming week.

Proponents of reversing the FCC order, such as Telecom subcommittee chairperson Marsha Blackburn claim that the vote represents relief to telecommunications companies and consumers. She tweeted, “These rules are nothing more than a big government power grab that will hurt hardworking taxpayers, and I’m thankful the House took an important step today in protecting consumers and the future of internet innovations”.

This recent vote has also prompted significant concerns over privacy and has led some individuals such as Adam McElhaney to create a GoFundMe webpage to “turn the tables” on the representatives who voted to reverse the FCC ruling.McElhaney states, “I plan on purchasing the internet histories of all legislators, congressmen, executives, and their families and making them easily searchable at my website searchinternethistory.com”.

McElhaney criticizes Blackburn for receiving over $700K from the telecom industry stating, “She represents my state and I feel personally hurt she would sell us out for nearly $700,000”.

While McElhaney’s intentions seem noble, critics argue that creating the GoFundMe webpage is actually illegal. The US Telecommunications act already prohibits individually identifiable customer information except under specific circumstances. As Mike Masnick, founder of the TechDirt blog writes, “Here’s the real problem: you can’t buy congress’s internet data, you can’t buy my internet data…That’s not how this works”.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 print edition.

Contact Collin at
collin.bailey@student.shu.edu

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