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Congress puts ISPs ahead of consumers

Congress recently sent legislation to President Trump that will pull back online privacy protections and allow internet service providers to more easily sell your internet usage to advertisers.

It’s a confusing issue that most Americans don’t fully understand. But the simple version is this: Congress wants to let companies like Verizon and AT&T make more money off of you by selling to advertisers things like your browser history, your app usage, location data, personal information and more.

Search engines already collect data on users and sell it. Google and Facebook do the same. But allowing internet service providers to do the same is a scary prospect. Facebook, for instance, only knows when and how you use its products. The same goes for Google. But internet service providers know everything about your online existence. Allowing them to sell your data directly to marketers will surely drive up their profits, but it will also mean less privacy for users.

And while you can choose not to use Facebook if you don’t agree with its privacy protections, you can’t simply choose not to use your internet service provider. In many places, there’s only one provider.

“Today’s vote means that Americans will never be safe online from having their most personal details stealthily scrutinized and sold to the highest bidder,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

So why did Congress do this? Supporters of the bill argued that privacy regulations hurt innovation (they really mean profits when they say innovation). Generally speaking, Republicans in Congress have been opposed to privacy regulations.

We can’t imagine a single voter anywhere asking to have their internet usage data sold to the highest bidder by their ISP. We can, however, imagine lobbyists for ISPs asking for it.

Yes, the protections that Congress’ bill would repeal were put in place during the Obama administration. But that alone doesn’t make them bad.

“(Consumer privacy) will be enhanced by removing the uncertainty and confusion these rules will create,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

That’s a ridiculous statement if ever there was one. Consumer privacy will in no way be enhanced. What will be enhanced will be your ISP’s profit margin.

Government regulations can sometimes be burdensome, over-reaching and unnecessary. But this isn’t one of those cases.

Our government should be working to create laws and rules that protect citizens’ privacy, even online. No internet user wants less privacy, but that’s exactly what Congress is delivering.