Congress pulls the plug on internet privacy

For many Americans, the internet is more than just an endless source for information, social networking and perusing YouTube for cute cat videos. One of its many intrigues is the sense of anonymity it provides, allowing users to express themselves freely, for better or for worse.

Still, whether you use the internet for Facebook, college classes or illegally downloading music, we are living in a digital age and use the internet for virtually everything from backing up our personal files to figuring out which route we plan to take to work in the morning.

“Overall, 73 per cent of Americans are online on a daily basis,” a 2016 study conducted by Pew Research Center states, “Along with the 21 per cent who go online almost constantly, 42 per cent go online several times a day.” All the while, leaving a digital paper trail that documents everything you did online, when you did it, and possibly where you were at the time.

Last month, on March 28th, Congress gave the go-ahead to repeal a law that would have protected the privacy of consumers. For instance, internet providers would have been required to ask permission prior to using an individual’s information, such as browsing history, app usage and geographical location. Meanwhile, just a year ago, the Washington D.C.-based National Cyber Security Alliance revealed that an alarming number of Americans are concerned with the privacy of their data, more-so even than they worry about personal finances, such as loss of income.

If Americans want regulations that prevent their internet providers from using their data without asking, why would the House of Representatives oppose a law that protects the interests of the people they are supposed to be representing?

The reason, unsurprisingly, comes down to dollars — specifically, targeted advertisements. Republicans who voted to pull the plug on internet privacy argued that popular search engines and social networking sites gather user data and turn a profit by means of advertisements, so why shouldn’t your internet provider?

The outvoted Democrats pointed out that the opposing argument was simply apples to oranges. Business Insider clarifies, “With Google and Facebook, there is an implicit handshake that their ad policies are how you ‘pay’ for their sites and apps, most of which are free. If an internet service provider practices the same policies, though, it’s double-dipping — charging you monthly for internet service and collecting your data for ad dollars.”

The laws that would have protected our privacy were so new that they had not yet been implemented, so consumers won’t be losing any safeguards right away because we never had them to begin with. Even so, the act of repealing the Obama-era laws certainly sets the concept of internet privacy back by several legal miles and begs the question: if they are willing to sacrifice our privacy and security in the name of corporate gain, how well are our Representatives truly representing us?