A recent Congress vote to repeal certain Internet privacy rules has caught the ire of many Web users—including one who has promised to buy and publish Congress Web history.
Max Temkin, the creator of popular party game Cards Against Humanity, told his Twitter followers this week that he intends to “buy the browser history of every Congressman and Congressional aide and publish it.” Before long, his comments went viral on popular Internet forums site Reddit, prompting Temkin on Wednesday to respond with a dose of caution.
“The amount of attention this is getting is honestly starting to scare me,” he said in reference to his tweet. “I know that voting this up is funny, and easy, and feels good. But even if we get this data, it’s a symbolic victory at best. Our basic human rights, like the right to privacy, are being sold to the highest bidder while the best minds of our generation are here on Reddit asking pro gamers if they want to fight a horse-sized duck or whatever. Real, material change requires sacrifice.”
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The kerfuffle started this week when Congress voted to repeal Internet privacy regulations issued last year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would require customer consent for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and wireless carriers to sell their customers’ Internet browsing histories to advertisers. The Congress and Senate have both voted to repeal the regulations and if President Trump signs the bill, those companies will be able to sell private user information without the customers’ knowledge.
The White House has already said it supports the bill.
After the Congressional vote, privacy advocates—as well as former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, an Obama appointee—spoke out against the move, saying it reverses years of work aimed at improving user privacy.
“The bill is an effort by the F.C.C.’s new Republican majority and congressional Republicans to overturn a simple but vitally important concept—namely that the information that goes over a network belongs to you as the consumer, not to the network hired to carry it,” Wheel wrote in The New York Times. “Reversing those protections is a dream for cable and telephone companies, which want to capitalize on the value of such personal information.”
Temkin tweeted his disapproval soon after the Congressional vote. Like Temkin, other critics said that they want to buy Congressional browsing history and some have launched fundraising pages on GoFundMe for that effort. The largest of those campaigns has raised more than $160,000 on an initial $10,000 fundraising goal.
But it’s possible that Internet users are supporting an effort that could never come to fruition. It’s unclear how the data would be sold under the new rules, and it’d be exceedingly difficult to link individuals to what would likely be bulk data sold to advertisers.
“This bill hasn’t been signed, the data doesn’t exist, and nobody knows what they’re talking about,” Temkin wrote on Reddit. “We don’t know if there will be any data to buy, how it will work, or what will be available. This means you should be very skeptical of any GoFundMe projects to buy this data. They are making promises they can’t possibly keep.”
However, Temkin said that if the bill is signed and data is made available, he and those who work at Cards Against Humanity will “do whatever we can do (to) acquire [the data] and publish it.” He added that tying the bulk data to Congresspeople could “take a long time” and may require Freedom of Information Act requests and other sophisticated means to identify what people are surfing inside Capitol Hill.