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Investigating Internet Privacy

Emily Wydra, Staff Writer

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S.J. Resolution 34. That is the name of the bill recently passed by the House of Representatives many people believe threatens the American right to privacy. But before the level of danger our privacy is in can be ascertained, the bill itself must first be defined. According to the bill, S.J. Resolution 34 would, “ Nullify the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission entitled ‘Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services.’ ” This means that the bill isn’t explicitly calling for businesses to be able to sell their customers data, it’s really calling for the nullification of a bill providing such protections.

To take things a step further, the rule proposed by the Federal Communications Commision (FCC) entitled “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services” proposed a framework for ensuring that consumers have the tools they need to make informed choices about how their data is used and when it is shared by their broadband providers. The proposed FCC rule was released for review on April 1, 2016, and was designed to go into effect on December 1, 2017. A problem with this timeline is that December 1 of 2017 has not passed yet, therefore the bill has not gone into effect. Therefore, Resolution 34 is attempting to nullify a bill that was never even put into action.

The purpose, as stated before, of the FCC rule was to protect consumers from businesses buying their data. Now that Resolution 34 has been passed through the House of Representatives and Senate, and will most likely be signed by the president, the FCC rule will be cancelled out, and providers will be allowed to sell data to businesses, as well as regulate the security of said data without having the federal government breathing down their necks. But what is data? And why are people arguing for and against its usage?

The data that providers and businesses would have access to, if this resolution passes, is the entire internet history of each respective individual. The restaurants you eat at, the places you go, the things you buy, and apps you use are all components of the ambiguous word “data.” Big businesses don’t want to use this information to stalk consumers per se, they really want it to develop a more personalized experience for consumers.
But what are politicians arguing on this topic? California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi asserts that, “With this measure, Republicans would destroy Americans’ right to privacy on the internet” and “Most Americans have no or limited choices for broadband providers and no recourse against these invasions of their privacy, because with this measure, Republicans turn their back on the overwhelming number of Americans who want more control over their internet privacy.” Basically, prominent Democratic politicians are not in favor of the bill, whereas Republicans, in general, are.

Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona says that, “Passing my resolution is the first step toward restoring a consumer-friendly approach to internet privacy regulation that empowers consumers to make informed choices on if and how their data can be shared. It will not change or lessen existing consumer privacy protections.”

After looking at all of the differing perspectives and facts of the bill, and the act it would be nullifying, the main conclusion here is who do you want controlling your privacy: the federal government, or private companies? And although the bill is already passed, the issue of internet privacy is not one that will die away. If anything, it is a problem, and topic, that will become more complex as technology progresses, meaning congress must continue to adapt to new ideas of technology if we are to ensure the privacy of our citizens in the future.

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Investigating Internet Privacy