Republicans take first step to overturn online privacy protections
Your online privacy is officially toast.
Republican lawmakers on Thursday took the first step in dismantling online privacy protections in a 50-to-48 vote in the Senate.
Assuming the measure is passed by the House and President Trump, companies like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T will soon be able to share people’s browsing and app activity without permission.
So shouldn’t you at least know a little more about the Congressman who is responsible for ripping away your online privacy?
Meet Jeff Flake, the Arizona senator who filed the resolution to kill off protections passed by the Federal Communications Commission last year.
Flake recently penned an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal claiming he would, “protect consumers from these harmful new regulations.”
There was something else that Flake didn’t disclose to readers in his March 2 piece, which perhaps should be a requirement for future op-eds.
PAC’s and individuals tied to Verizon and Cox Enterprises were among the top 20 contributors to Flake’s campaign committee and leadership PAC between 2011 and 2016, according to opensecrets.org.
People and organizations tied to Verizon Communications gave $28,000 in donations to Flake’s committee and PAC, according to OpenSecrets.org. People, employees or PACs tied to Cox Enterprises gave roughly $26,000.
New view from the Hill: profits first, consumer protection later (maybe).
Flake claims the FCC’s protections “risks crashing our longstanding privacy-protection regime” by not allowing the Federal Trade Commission to be the deciding body to oversee online privacy.
The FTC, Flake argues, is the better agency to take up online privacy concerns because of its “evidence-based approach.”
In other words, he would prefer to wait until a consumer is harmed before any possible regulation is developed and kicks into action.
Flake also argued that allowing the FCC’s privacy protection would restrict Internet service providers from informing customers about “innovative and cost-saving product offerings.”
Translation: it’s better for you if your data is for sale because more advertisers can try to sell you merchandise online.
Flake isn’t interested in protecting consumers. If he was, he would have introduced a bill to add consumer protections. Instead, he put forward a resolution using the Congressional Review Act to allow businesses like Comcast and Verizon to make more money off of consumers.
Apparently, escalating prices for cable, satellite TV and broadband just isn’t enough these days.
Generally speaking, Republicans hated what the FCC did when it was led by Tom Wheeler during the Obama administration. Wheeler believed in being an advocate for the consumer while acknowledging innovation often came through insurgent businesses.
It left lobbyists and all the money that pours into Washington D.C. with less power over the consumer.
Flake is among the lawmakers who believe that the FCC under Wheeler somehow stifled innovation. Ajit Pai, the new FCC chairman and former legal counsel for Verizon, has a similar point of view.
They claim that regulations should only be created when there is proof of harmful activity.
This kind of approach raises a question that Flake just can’t predict or answer.
How many consumers will have to be taken advantage of before FTC regulators take action?
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble