Is Internet Privacy a Thing of the Past?
On Tuesday, March 27, Congress officially voted to reverse a number of internet privacy protections passed by the Obama Administration. This new law, if put into action, gives internet providers the right to access every citizen’s complete web history without his knowledge or consent. This also means that internet companies, such as AT&T or Comcast, can sell their customers’ information and preferences to advertising agencies.
Have you ever seen an ad for a website you visited a few days ago? At some point in the past, you gave your internet provider permission to send your browser history to that ad company. With this bill, that is no longer an option, as permission does not need to be granted.
However, the bill has not yet been passed. Though unlikely, it is still possible that President Trump will veto the proposed legislation. The current Internet Privacy Laws, which ban the unwanted viewing and trading of the population’s internet history without express consent, were created by President Obama. The currently-debated bill, which would repeal Obama’s “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunication Services” regulation, was created by the Republican-Majority Senate. It holds up the conservative viewpoint of that Obama’s laws unfairly regulated online companies, which slowed down their progress and limited their opportunities for profit.
“I think it’s interesting to see how government is taking larger strides towards regulatory legislation in terms of technology. Ultimately, the law’s goal is to open up a larger free market for internet information, but, in reality, it is a definite threat to consumer privacy,” stated junior Nikki Kone.
This is highly controversial, as many critics feel Congress is putting their internet privacy on sale to the highest bidder and do not feel comfortable with large companies having access to all of their information. Facebook and Google have had this privilege in the past, but, unlike with internet service providers, you have to be logged in to Facebook or a Google account for this data to be collected. There is no way to “log out” of Comcast, AT&T or Verizon, so there is no way to avoid having your information collected.
Some have brought up the idea by evading the new bill through the use of VPNs, virtually private networks, which prevent your internet provider from tracking and selling your data by routing all of your internet traffic through a single server. However, nothing would prevent VPN providers from tracking and selling data themselves. Others have discussed the use of Tor, which masks internet users’ locations and identities, but has been known to slow down web browsing.
Many opposers to the legislation, instead of attempting to evade it, have chosen to protest against it. Protests have erupted across the nation, from Democrats and Republicans alike. Protesters have called for the publication of Republican Congressmen who approved the bill’s browsing histories. Supernatural actor Misha Collins has created a GoFundMe page to purchase the individual web histories of Donald Trump and every Congressperson who voted in favor of the bill and publish them online.
As junior Jordan Moldow put it when discussing the new legislation, “It’s ridiculous. People with no understanding of how internet privacy works are making decisions that affect all citizens of the United States, themselves included. It’s a complete breach of privacy.”
Under the pretense of fair business opportunity, the government is allowing an unfair trading of private information. This blatantly undermines every American’s right to privacy. The bill, if signed, will benefit the corporate internet providers at the expense of the rights of the individual. Whether or not this will occur will be decided by the end of the week.
Photo Source: Pixabay
Sources: Fox News, Geek Wire, The Register, NPR, Wired, New York Times, Salon, GoFundMe