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Last week, Congress passed and sent a bill to the President that will greatly decrease individual privacy and cybersecurity (for more, see Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) “Five Ways Cybersecurity Will Suffer If Congress Repeals the FCC Privacy Rules”). S.J.Res. 34: A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, submitted by the FCC relating to “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services” will roll back the FCC regulation passed last year that required Internet service providers (ISPs) — like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner, Cox, and CenturyLink — to hold all Internet browsing data, as well as data regarding app usage on mobile devices, to the same privacy requirements as sensitive or private personal information. The Republican-controlled Congress repealed those privacy-protecting rules, and the President is set to sign the bill any day now. BTW, none of the big ISPs have publicly supported the rule change, but a group of Small ISPs wrote a public letter to Congress opposing Congress’s Move to Abolish Privacy Protections — including, I’m happy to say, MY awesome local ISP called MonkeyBrains! So if you’re concerned about your Internet privacy rights, I’d definitely recommend getting off of Comcast et al and signing up with one of the ISPs that signed the letter. Do it ASAP!
While it’s unclear if this will be possible or even legal, there has been a crop of FundMe and Kickstarter projects springing up to collect $$ to purchase Congress’ browsing history and make it public in retaliation for Congress killing Internet privacy rules. And I just found that our friends at GovTrack.US have just made public a running tally in real time of “any time someone visits GovTrack.us from within the United States Senate, House of Representatives, or the White House, and their associated office buildings.” GovTrack is following the lead of the CongressEdits twitter feed, making a public record of Congress’ moves and actions across the Intertubes.
In March 2017 the U.S. Congress passed a bill that rolled back regulations prohibiting Internet service providers from selling subscribers’ browsing habits to advertisers. Since browsing history metadata is no big deal to Congress, we began publishing the browsing history of anyone visting GovTrack.us from Congress’s and the White House’s office buildings.
The news is all over the Internet: President Obama today made a strong statement in support of [[Net neutrality]], urging the FCC to adopt strict rules on net neutrality in order to assure a level Internet playing field and not allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to discriminate Internet traffic (news coverage here and here).
Yes, net neutrality is a good thing, and it’s about time Obama came out in support — after all, over 100,000 people signed the White House petition and the FCC Received 3.7 Million comments in support of Net neutrality!
However, we need more drastic (or common sense!) measures than simply assuring that ISPs provide a level Internet playing field. The big ISPs (e.g., Comcast and Verizon) are currently consolidating and are acting like drug cartels — don’t take my word for it, watch John Oliver’s piece on Net Neutrality below. So what we need is NOT a level playing field for the monopolistic ISPs — Obama wants FCC to regulate the Internet under under Title II of the Telecommunications Act would mean reclassifying it as a utility — but a playing field that is truly public and noncommercial.