The Conservative Case Against Trashing Online Privacy Rules

PROTECTING INTERNET PRIVACY should be a bipartisan issue, right? After all, Americans seem united in their dislike of the phone and cable behemoths that dominate internet service in the US.

More importantly, the principle of protecting your personal online data from snooping wouldn’t seem to break down along tidy partisan lines. Democrats want to protect the little guy from exploitation by corporate interests. Republicans believe in individual liberty. And yet, the decision to revoke Federal Communications Commission rules that would have stopped internet providers from selling your data without your permission followed party lines almost perfectly. Almost.

No Democrat in either the House or Senate voted for the resolution that repeals Federal Communications Commission rules prohibiting ISPs from selling your browsing history without your opt-in permission. No Senate Republican voted against it. But 15 House Republicans bucked their party to join a unified Democratic caucus to vote against the resolution. Call it online profiles in courage.

“At the end of the day, it’s your data,” says representative Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), who voted against the repeal. “I don’t see how it could be anyone else’s.”

Davidson says ISPs tracking your web surfing habits to target ads is like the postal service or FedEx snooping through your letters to figure out what junk mail to send you. “If a guy could carry a letter on a horse for weeks and not open it, why can’t [internet providers] carry it for three seconds?” he asks. “What’s changed? It’s just that it’s easier now.”

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