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Reconsider the Privacy Rules

President Trump has vetoed Obama era federal online privacy rules. The rule would have applied to internet service providers and prevented them from selling users’ online data, like locations and browsing habits and histories, to advertisers without permission.

As the internet takes a bigger and bigger toll on Americans’ privacy, keeping data and our innocent and not so innocent mistakes forever, Americans are becoming more and more captive to their one off bad behavior. We are, essentially, being defined by our online actions, some of which we may regret, and there is no escaping. A decade old act online is forever and the internet often treats it as immediate, not a decade old.

On top of that, the larger invasion of privacy makes us commodities. Internet service providers make us pay for their services, but then they have the potential to turn around and treat us as a good to advertisers. We could be repackaged, without our permission, and sold to advertisers who then sell us more advertising based on what we do online.

I hope Republicans will reconsider this and fix the flaw that led to Republicans’ reversing this.

The reason for the veto, which I think is understandable in this regard, is that the FCC online privacy rule applied to ISP’s though there is no evidence they are actually selling their users’ behaviors to advertisers. But there is ample evidence that companies online are. Should you visit a website, that website serves up cookies that can then follow you through the web catering your advertising.

Google makes so much free to individuals because it then turns around and serves advertising to its users based on their online habits and searches.

The privacy regulations would seriously hinder the businesses of many of these online companies, which is why the Obama Administration did not apply the rules to them. But there is actual proof that the online companies are doing what the ISP’s would be prohibited from doing and there is no concrete evidence that the ISP’s are doing what the regulations would prohibit.

I do not think we should be treating companies like Google or Facebook different from Verizon and Comcast in terms of user privacy. So I understand the veto. But I wish Republicans would pursue privacy protections for internet users that apply equally to the internet providers and the companies we access online.

Privacy in the age of the internet is like ice water to a man in hell. The more we value it and protect it, the better off we will all be. This is not a liberal or conservative issue. This really should not even be a political issue. It is just common sense, but needs wisdom on how to apply it fairly and broadly across providers of services and providers of access to those services.

About the author

Erick Erickson

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