Congress Says ISPs Can Sell Your Browser History on Party Line Vote

2 minute read
| Analysis

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Tuesday to sell you out to ISPs. More specifically, they voted to allow your ISP to sell you, your data, and your browsing history to anyone it wants. ISPs will be able to do so without your approval, without your permission, and without you benefitting from the transaction in any way. The House did so in a largely-party line vote that saw Republicans siding with large corporations against you.

The vote in the House followed a vote in the Senate last week on that body’s version of the bill. It, too, passed on a party line vote.

MacBook with a Spying Eye - ISPs can Sell Your Browser History

ISPs Can Sell Your Browser History

The FCC under the Obama administration had a rule in place that required ISPs to obtain your permission to sell your browser history. The Senate and the House have now passed legislation that overturns that rule and prohibits the FCC from instituting similar rules in the future.

Surveillance capitalism. Pretty cool, right?

In the short term, it’s somewhat moot. The corporatist in charge of the FCC now had already put that rule on notice. That’s because he—like the Republican party as a whole—believes the right of corporations to profit off you is more important than your right to privacy.

The Rationalization

Big ISPs like Comcast have argued that Google, Facebook, and many other tech giants routinely profit from selling your data. They, or so they argued, are being unfairly punished by not being able to partake in this smorgasbord of corporate shenanigans, too.

The GOP has largely bought into this notion. Rather than requiring Google, Facebook, and other tech giants to also require permission before selling your data, they’ve instead decided that another wrong makes it all right. And just in case some do-gooder pansy manages to wiggle into the FCC chair in the future, this legislation prohibits rules from being imposed in the future.

That means it will require both a do-gooder pansy in the FCC and do-gooder pansies to control Congress and the White House to overturn this abominable situation.

Doesn’t Take a Genius

It doesn’t take a genius to spot the logic flaws in the corporate argument.

1.) Consumers can decide not to use surveillance services like Google, Facebook, et al, and still use the Internet.

2.) In most markets in the U.S., broadband is offered by one corporate giant. There’s no competition, meaning consumers can’t choose an ISP that doesn’t pillage their digital privacy for extra profit. In many markets, broadband is a government-awarded monopoly, making competition even less of a thing.

3.) Even in markets with competition, it’s competition by the same companies pushing for this legislation. There are nowhere near enough broadband providers to foster the kind of competition where privacy becomes a selling point.

Despite this rather easy exercise, the GOP voted to not only allow, but ensure ISPs can sell your browser history.

Politics Intersecting with Technology

These votes by the Senate and House are about putting corporate profits above consumers’ right to privacy, plain and simple. The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Trump.

15 Comments Add a comment

  1. paikinho

    I dropped Facebook almost 7 years ago over their practices.

    You are correct that people can choose to avoid Google and Facebook.

    Now I suppose I will have to entirely go dark to avoid the ISP’s creating a virtual me with predictability models. Kind of sad when the government choses corporations over citizens.

  2. Jamie

    ‘The Senate and the House have now passed legislation that overturns that rule and prohibits the FCC from instituting similar rules in the future.’

    That’s the part that’s spooky, the neutering of any possible recourse. How long before VPNs, Tor, et. al. are banned? Pretty despicable, in my opinion.

  3. paikinho

    Answer: A New Congress…. then we can get new rules.

    Back and forth the pendulum swings.
    Just need people more beholden to the citizens of the country than to the corporate oligarchies and huge multinational corporations.

    Next election millennials….. 2018… Start caring about the privilege the Constitution has imparted to you. If not… old people will keep dominating the politics of our great nation.

  4. paikinho

    Time for Apple to Buy up the ISP’s and enforce their own “No data collection/retention policy across the land.

    If the government is bent on ruining things for the little guy, perhaps there is a market solution.

  5. geoduck

    Two points:
    I would like to see TMO do an article on VPNs. that would be one good way to block this and protect your privacy.

    Don’t kid yourself. this is not just corporate spying. I suspect that NSA/CIA are already looking into just buying the data they normally would have too go to a court to get permission for. A shadow company goes to Comcast and signs a cheque for all of Comcast’s customer data. The data is sent to NSA/CIA without anyone raising so much as an eyebrow. It’s not spying if it’s public information freely for sale.

    We’re finally on our own. – Neil Young

  6. paikinho

    My son was just asking me yesterday to get a VPN app. His friends all use them… he is 9.

    The youth of tomorrow… there is hope.

  7. paikinho

    Should do an updated Article on anonymizing everything.
    Anonym, Tor, Anonymous web search etc….

    Seems we will need to make this a part of what we do as users. Probably should have been doing it before, but stuff like this congressional decision shake people to wakefulness.

    No time like the present to press oneself into action!

  8. GernBlanston23

    Another great day for freedom. I am so sick and tired of the new popups everywhere asking if I want to get a lawyer to decide if I should accept a cookie from cnn.com.

    The Liberal Progressive “nanny state” agenda Lost The Election. Get over it.

    I choose to use an iPhone because I know I won’t get viruses, the Chase iOS app actually is Chase Bank, and Google is evil (they read your email!).

    I choose to use social apps that have options to block web searches (they work for me). If your nanny state wants to pass a law to limit the freedom of Americas corporations then that is fine and how it is supposed to work per our Foundig Fathers.

    Justice is Blind.. Before the law Apple corporation is equal to a little old lady. As soon to be Justice Gorsuch said last week..

    “Equal justice under law is a radical promise in the history of mankind.”

  9. xmattingly

    The Liberal Progressive “nanny state” agenda Lost The Election. Get over it.

    Get over what, losing a bigly amount of privacy because ISP lobbyists apparently have bottomless pockets for the Republican Party (those stock partisan talking points come in handy, even when they have absolutely no context, amirite GernBlaston23)? Privacy advocacy has nothing to do with the “nanny state”. Unless of course, you believe through some warped sense of Deep Red Patriotism! that everyone who uses the internets owes their ass to The Corporate Overlords, because they told you so.

    By the way, your Corporate Overlords told you to go make me a sammich.

  10. furbies

    Is there a way for a 3rd party DNS service to work over https (or similar ?)

    And what about https in general ?
    If folks insist on https support from their “favourite” websites, won’t that severely diminish the amount of “data” these ISP lowlifes can harvest ?

  11. Paul Goodwin

    The GOP and this president are the worst this country has ever had. Under control of right wing big money. Making America Great? What a bunch of A$$holes. By the time they’re finished, they’ll have undone everything good that has happened in the last 50 years in health, environment, energy, women’s rights, education, arts, and communication, I used to think that Nixon/Agnew and the GOP at that time were the worst this country could ever elect. This bunch in control of the White House and Contress are the worst bunch of lying pricks ever assembled in this country. Embarrassment on a global level.

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