Congress has Taken Your Internet Privacy from You, But Most Don’t Even Know

Reggie Fullwood
Reggie Fullwood
Reggie Fullwood

It almost happened without regular people even knowing.

While us “citizens” were distracted by Republican’s attempts to repeal Obamacare and Donald Trump’s other shenanigans, a plan was brewing to basically sell your Internet privacy.

The secret, or not so secret bill, passed both the House and Senate along party line votes with Democrats voting against it.  In April, the bill went to the President and was signed without fanfare.  That’s a key part of this story.

Think about this – the Donald signed a major policy piece of legislation without a big press conference or Tweets or even one of those silly bill-signing ceremonies. Why wouldn’t he follow his normal narcissistic behavior? Well because he didn’t want to make a big fuss about the fact that he and his Republican colleagues just took a big chunk of your privacy away from you.

 

But in this new era of instant communications and social media, the cat is now out of the bag and people are really upset. Here’s the deal.

Marketing and social media companies can tailor ads based on your Internet site viewing patterns and the type of advertising you like or follow on sites like Facebook and Instagram.  Yes, just when you thought it was safe to look at meatloaf recipes on Pinerest – companies can capture that data and sell to advertisers.

Most of us don’t even think about it.  The internet sites I check out in the privacy of my own home should be private right? Wrong.

The bill signed by Trump in April abolished rules passed last year that would keep internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from selling your usage info for their own profit.

In October of 2016, Federal Communications Commission passed a new set of rules that forbid Internet providers from sharing sensitive personal information, such as app and browsing histories, financial information, mobile location data and other information generated while using the Internet.
I don’t care what your party affiliation is, everyone should be concerned about Congress giving Internet providers the right to sell your personal data.  Think about it – browsing histories, contact information, financial data, etc. it is all up for grabs, and the people should be worried.

The FCC law that was overturned by Republicans also restricted the trading in health data, Social Security numbers and the content of emails and other digital messages.  Providers would also have been required to notify customers about the types of information collected and shared.

That’s all gone now.  Consumer have been caught in the political game of politicians choosing the highest bidder over what is right.

Internet providers wrote big checks to Republican leaders, hence the little guy who simply wants some measure of privacy in their internet browsing looses.

Internet providers or Big Brothers like AT&T and Comcast will say that it is not a big deal because certain websites already track your usage and behavior. Well there is a big difference between Facebook tracking my “likes” and movement as a social media site versus the company that I pay for internet service tracking my moves and capturing data.

I get capitalism.  In fact, I love it. I am OK with it, but we have to draw a line somewhere when it comes to the web.  Whether it is the federal or state governments or private corporations, citizens deserve a degree of privacy in their usage of the Internet.

Because of the federal laws changing – state legislatures and Governors in over a dozen states are trying to pass their own legislation that gives those protections back to consumers.

Not sure if it will work, but at the end of the day this legislation is a prime example that having one party control the White House and Congress can lead to bad bills passing without much citizen input.  Not only is Big Brother watching, he’s about to make a major profit off of each of us.

While most tech firms look to capitalize on the ability to capture your personal information at least one tech giant realizes the importance of maintaining consumer privacy.

“Historically, privacy was almost implicit, because it was hard to find and gather information. But in the digital world, whether it’s digital cameras or satellites or just what you click on, we need to have more explicit rules – not just for governments but for private companies,” said Microsoft founder, Bill Gates.

Hopefully more people will wake up to what’s happening, and if you start getting more “pop ups,” spam emails, and other more annoying ads – just know that Big Brother is watching.

Signing off from the Comcast store near you,

Reggie Fullwood

 

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