With House GOP Vote, Internet Privacy Is Officially Kaput

Despite widespread popular outcry, House Republicans on Tuesday voted to strip citizens' of their right to privacy online, selling out the American public to the deep-pocketed telecom industry.

With 215 voting for and 205 against, 15 GOP representatives joined the Democrats in opposing the S.J. Res. 34, a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to repeal the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) privacy provision. Six Republicans and three Democrats abstained. Roll call here.

Open internet and privacy advocates immediately condemned the resolution, now poised to become law pending a likely signature President Donald Trump.

Laying out the implications of the vote, Nathan White, senior legislative manager at Access Now, declared, "Congress today voted to sell off your privacy and your security online."

"Your internet service provider can see almost everything you do online — from many of the websites you visit, to apps you use, and even some of your private communications," he continued. "[Internet Service Providers] (ISPs) want to sell off that treasure trove to increase corporate profits, and apparently Congress is fine with that."

Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said that Republican lawmakers "once again that they care more about the wishes of the corporations that fund their campaigns than they do about the safety and security of their constituents,"

"Gutting these privacy rules won't just allow Internet Service Providers to spy on us and sell our personal information, it will also enable more unconstitutional mass government surveillance, and fundamentally undermine our cybersecurity by making our sensitive personal information vulnerable to hackers, identity thieves, and foreign governments," she added.

Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU legislative counsel, said that it is "extremely disappointing that Congress is sacrificing the privacy rights of Americans in the interest of protecting the profits of major internet companies including Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon."

"President Trump," Guliani continued, "now has the opportunity to veto this resolution and show he is not just a president for CEOs but for all Americans. Trump should use his power to protect everyone's right to privacy."

Despite the call for Trump to stand up for privacy rights, a White House press statement released earlier Tuesday indicated that his advisers will "recommend that he sign the bill into law."

Taking to Twitter, Greer further pointed out that the privacy violations will disproportionately impact marginalized communities like LGBTQ people, explaining how the widespread collection of data could present a "backdoor opportunity to target people based on their beliefs or sexuality."

Further, as Matt Stoller, fellow at the Open Markets Program at the New America thinktank, outlined in a lengthy Twitter thread earlier Tuesday, the resolution is more than an invasion of privacy but also "about market power and the ability to manipulate you with algorithms."

"Do you want your insurance company to adjust your rates based on your web browsing activity?" Stoller asked. "Do you want prospective employers to use as a criteria who you are thinking of dating? Do you want your ISP or any buyers of data to know you are communicating with politicians or political advocates? Do you want airlines to raise ticket prices on you without you realizing it, based on their knowledge a family member just died?" He added, "That's what this is about."

The danger of "predatory marketing" schemes was also highlighted by Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson, who wrote: "Ending these important privacy protections gives greedy corporations unfettered access to our personal data and the power to further exploit vulnerable communities. The data that big corporations collect from Black broadband users leads to predatory marketing, which starts at a young age and lasts throughout our lives. Without the crucial FCC regulations implemented last year, Black and marginalized communities will continue to experience online price gouging, data discrimination, and digital redlining."

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