Privacy issue surges

Privacy issue surges

Congressmembers who voted to let companies sell information about their customers face growing anger. Those members include Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei, both Nevada Republicans.

They voted to stop a Federal Communications Commission rule that would have required companies to obtain customers’ permission before using or sharing sensitive data—including browsing histories, and medical and financial information—with other businesses.

The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, reports, “An advocacy group called Fight for the Future pledged to put up billboards in Washington, D.C., and certain districts targeting Republicans who voted for the bill. And two separate fundraising campaigns have amassed a combined $250,000 to purchase the browsing history of Republican lawmakers who backed the bill, although service providers do not actually sell specific individuals’ browsing history.” Heller already has online ads running against him on the issue.

After Donald Trump signed the measure, 50 House Republicans feeling the heat paradoxically sent a letter to the FCC on April 7 asking the agency to protect privacy. The letter was sent so rapidly that the names of the signatories were not typed out. Only their signatures appear, many of them illegible. It appears Amodei was not among them.

Some companies that manufacture spyware and virus filters are now using the vote to sell products. “Do you value your online privacy?” asks a message from Norton Symantec to its users. “Recent legislation repeals privacy rules, allowing your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to share and sell your browsing habits without your permission. Norton WiFi Privacy can help protect your sensitive information and is provided by the name you trust for online security.” It offers the product for $40.

Congressional Democrats are expected to stage a fight on net neutrality to join it to the privacy issue. Heller is already known for opposing net neutrality.

Net neutrality is a governing principle that governments and internet service providers should handle all data equally, without imposing higher prices or otherwise treating anyone different for different methods of data delivery.