Getting What You Pay For: ISPs Buy Your Privacy

The President signed into law a bill allowing your internet service provider to sell your complete internet browsing and email history without your consent. Essentially, your ISP can sell everything you send or receive through the internet. It’s a law that benefits internet service providers and no one else.

The law – technically a resolution – repealed a Federal Communications Commission rule that would have barred ISPs from selling, without your consent, customer data, including app usage, browsing history, even Social Security numbers, to marketers and others. The FCC rules was widely praised by privacy and consumer advocates when it was finalized last year. It had not yet taken effect.

The excuse for the law is that it “levels the playing field” between internet service providers and internet content providers like Facebook and Google. Content providers are in the business of harvesting and selling the data you give them.

But the excuse is nonsense. You can choose whether or not to use a content provider. You can avoid Google; you can not join Facebook. It’s a choice, and the choice gives you control over who has your information.

But you don’t have a choice about using an internet service provider unless you choose to avoid the internet entirely. That’s a much different choice. It’s not even apples and oranges; it’s apples a big rocks.

In fact, it is a classic false equivalency fallacy. Service providers and content providers are not the same thing, and there’s no reason for them to enjoy the same privileges with your personal data. The Republican excuse – and it was a party-line split in voting – is a lie.

Faced with that reality, some Republican supporters shifted ground, claiming that regulation of the internet by the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission was confusing to consumers. Oddly, not consumers have claimed to be confused. This excuse whiffs of ISP spin control, and is even less plausible than the false equivalency fail.

The public is strongly opposed to the law. According to a Huffington Post/YouGov survey that found 72 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Democrats opposed the rollback. Among Republicans polled, even if they were told the law was a Republican bill, it still got overwhelming disapproval.

The despicable Rep. Don Young (R, Senility) said he voted for the law because the Republican leadership told him to. That makes it clear that voting for Young is like voting for a rubber stamp that’s used by national Republican leadership. If Rep. Young had the self-reflection of a planaria, he’d understand that begs the question.

Sure, the ISPs promise they wouldn’t do such a heinous thing as sell your private data. They even sent WC a weasel-worded email promising they had no present plans to sell private information. But if you think that the ISPs, having invested tens of millions of dollars in lobbying efforts and campaign contributions don’t want a return on their investment, you’re either employed by an ISP or incredibly naive.

So why did Congress give away your personal data?

It’s pretty simple. They didn’t give it away. They sold it. The average contribution by the ISP industry to Republicans in the U.S. House was $138,000. The 50 House Republicans voting against the bill got an average of only $77,000. In the Senate, the 50 Republicans voting for the bill had received an average of $368,648 from the industry during their congressional careers. If you do the math, that millions of dollars in campaign contributions by the internet service providers to your elected representatives.

Who, without hesitation, sold you out.