Congress Just Voted to Let Internet Providers Sell Your Private Search History
On March 28, 2017, the Senate passed a Joint Resolution, proposed by Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), that condemns a prior law regarding how the FCC asks Internet Service Providers to protect users’ private browsing history and data. The consensus about this Resolution’s immediate effect, is that it allows internet providers to sell the personal browsing history of individual citizens. The Joint Resolution was proposed on January 7, 2017, and not extensively publicly debated. Rather confoundingly, it is hard to see exactly the status of whether this Senate Joint Resolution has indeed passed both chambers. When you look at Congress.gov on your desktop, that site declares that the Resolution has indeed passed in both the House and the Senate. But on the mobile version of the same Government site, you will read at the exact same time (12:13 pm today, Wednesday March 29) that it has ONLY passed in the Senate, thus is not yet the law of the land.
Gizmodo and other news sites are reporting that this Joint Resolution has in fact quietly passed both chambers, and does in fact let any Internet user’s browsing history — personally identifiable browsing history — be scooped up by Internet Service Providers, used and sold.
Critics such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU are appalled by this capability. We are a nonpartisan site, but it is difficult for us right now to find quotes from others who do support the use by commercial ISP providers of personally identifiable browsing histories. This lack of widespread support for the bill — as Gizmodo notes, it mostly benefits a few very wealthy ISP providers but would appall most ordinary users (hence our GIF) — may explain why the passage of this Joint Resolution, if it has indeed passed both chambers, has been so quiet.
Obviously any ISP provider now can identify sexually sensitive or embarrassing searches, searches related to medical history, and searches that might expose people’s private political views.
You can see the Joint Resolution’s full text, which is only two pages long, above. This one is hard to understand out of context. Like many other bills and Resolutions, it is unnecessarily opaque (keeping citizens from easily understanding what is at stake) because it amends or changes another document that is not typically included in or digitally “stapled” to the current bill or Resolution. As we noted on our FaceBook Live stream, this is exactly like a bank asking you to sign an amendment for a contract for a mortgage on a house, and then being told by the bank what you owe them every month, but not ever being shown the actual contract that the amendment amends.
We at DailyClout are determined to offer citizens, and even elected officials who have told us that they too have trouble easily finding and searching current bills and relevant documents that bills amend, the actual prior document that the bill references.
So this Senate Joint Resolution specifically condemns Chapter 8, Title 5 of the United States Code. While Congress.gov claims to cite this document, when you click on that link which the US Government provides, the site currently redirects you to a page that reads: “Document not found.”
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website, this Joint Resolution allows internet organizations that offer you Internet services — for instance, Comcast, Verizon, A T and T, and others — to “harvest your personal information in extraordinarily creepy ways. They will watch your every action online, and create highly personalized and sensitive profiles for the highest bidder. All without your consent. This breaks with the decades-long legal tradition that your communications provider is never allowed to monetize your personal information without asking for your permission first.”
Also important to understand, EFF points out, is that this harms US cybersecurity because now US companies have vast repositories of personally identifying data about American citizens’ search histories. Even more startlingly, according to the EFF, this Resolution will allow big Internet providers to demand a “privacy tax” if consumers with to protect their own personal information. It seems that President Trump still has to sign this bill for it to become a law.
If you want this bill to change how your personal information and online search history is sold, used and possibly made public, or if you really don’t want it, you still have a chance to change outcomes. Call President Trump at 202-456-1414. If you decide to visit him to express your views, call the White House Visitor’s Office: 202-456-2121. Tweet President Trump at the official POTUS Twitter, @POTUS, and at his personal Twitter, @realdonaldtrump, about Joint Resolution 34, which hands over your personal search history to Internet Providers to sell to the highest bidder. And if you want to call your Representative and and the sponsors of this Resolution, or show online how you feel about what they have been up to, tweet Jeff Flake, @JeffFlake. Share this blog through social media.