Privacy advocates on Monday are urging Americans to call their elected officials, warning that there are only 24 hours left to “save online privacy rules” before the U.S. House of Representatives votes on a measure that would allow major telecom companies to collect user data and auction it off to the “highest bidder.”
Wasting no time, the House is expected to begin debate late Monday on S.J. Res. 34, a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) privacy provision, implemented under former President Barack Obama, which requires that providers such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon get a user’s permission before collecting or selling sensitive data.
As Common Dreams reported, 50 Republican senators voted to advance the resolution last week.
“We are one vote away from a world where your [Internet Service Providers or ISP] can track your every move online and sell that information to the highest bidder,” Kate Tummarello, policy analyst for the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), said Monday.
Explaining how the FCC’s “commonsense” rules would have prevented ISPs from doing a “host of creepy things,” Tummarello wrote: “Those rules were a huge victory for consumers. Of course, the ISPs that stand to make money off of violating your privacy have been lobbying Congress to repeal those rules. Unfortunately, their anti-consumer push has been working.”
Meanwhile, the opposition is responding with a campaign of its own to pressure lawmakers—said to be in the pocket of the telecom industry—to protect #broadbandprivacy.
On Monday, the grassroots advocacy Fight for the Future announced that it will unleash billboards in Washington, D.C. and other select districts exposing any Congress member who votes to gut internet privacy rules.
“Congress should know by now that when you come for the internet, the internet comes for you,” said Evan Greer, the organization’s campaign director, who added that “these billboards are just the beginning. People from across the political spectrum are outraged, and every lawmaker who votes to take away our privacy will regret it come Election Day.”
Similarly, encrypted communications provider Private Internet Access has taken out a full-page ad in the New York Times naming the senators who “voted to monitor your internet activity for financial gain.”
Meanwhile, in a series of tweets, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) enumerated on the implications of the resolution, concluding that House lawmakers should “stand up against industry pressure to put profits over privacy & reject the resolution to overturn the FCC’s privacy rule.”
The resolution also prohibits the FCC from issuing rules that are substantially the same in the future.— ACLU National (@ACLU) March 27, 2017
Without FCC rules, companies would be able to sell your sensitive data to advertisers, big data brokers, and even the government.— ACLU National (@ACLU) March 27, 2017
The House should stand up against industry pressure to put profits over privacy & reject the resolution to overturn the FCC’s privacy rule.— ACLU National (@ACLU) March 27, 2017
Further, Muhammad Saad Khan at The Next Web explained how a rollback of privacy rules could usher in a new wave of cyber attacks.
“Considering what is at stake here, and how much data ISPs already have on us, it will not come as a surprise if in the long run, the number of cyberattacks increase by leaps and bounds,” Khan wrote. “Monitoring activities and data theft will rise significantly, as if they were already not a menace. With gadgets, households and even cars being connected to the internet as part of the IoT (the Internet of Things), it is not that hard to imagine how deadly a cyberattack could possibly be if things turn for the worst; which they will, as history suggests.”