New Law Threatens Internet Privacy

By Kareem Ibrahim ’18

After closing your incognito tab or after clearing your browsing history, you probably feel your privacy is secure. This common fallacy of privacy has recently been endangered by legislation that allows Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the companies that you pay to give you your internet, to covertly sell your browsing data to the highest bidder.

The scary thing is, ISPs can see every website you go to at any given moment. According to PCWorld, “Is Your ISP Spying On You?” 9/3/12, ISPs are able to track your Internet Protocol addresses (IP addresses), which is basically the virtual address of a website, and any unencrypted data you send online. Then they could do whatever they want with it, which includes selling.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last December set a prospective rule that forced ISPs to notify and gain permission of a user to sell their browsing data. In a recent bill proposed by Jeff Flake, Republican senator of Arizona, this regulation would be overturned and prevent the FCC from creating similar laws. The bill, titled H.J. Res. 86, passed the Senate by the razor thin margin of 50-48, the House by 215-205, and officially signed into law by President Trump early April, effectively flying past legislation.

Some Hornets have even expressed their disapproval towards this overturn.

“What? Internet Privacy? With this legislation, internet privacy is nullified,” said Tim Samadov ‘18. “The legislation is completely inadequate.”

The implications of such a law has extremely harmful repercussions as it sets out a precedent of governmental laissez-faire towards the privacy rights of citizens. ISPs can effectively take what they want from their consumers and and not worry about any negative consequences. Your life is now an open book.

Now granted, you will not feel much of an effect from this overturn at the moment. If anything, it will feel like nothing ever changed. The FCC law was never originally in effect. But this is not the reason as to why this is such a mistake, reason being; this is a mistake because it tells ISPs that what they are doing is now practically government sanctioned and proper. It’s no different than your parent not telling you to do something destructive, there is no guarantee you will but you will always have the opportunity.

“People deserve their own space,” said Ashley Masih ‘18. “Internet providers who want to take their information for the sole purpose of selling consumers data is a huge invasion of privacy.”

There is no benefit to the consumer from such a law. The government is actively undermining the rights of the people in exchange of personal gain. Corporations have won governmental approval, again.

Proponents of the law say that it is able to allow for a free market in this industry and that the original FCC law placed unnecessary regulations on ISPs. The problem with these claims is that they are looking backwards. Back when advertising and data selling were miniscule ideas that really were not evident, sure this may have worked. But in the modern day there is a large industry in this type of privacy invasion. Governmental regulation is essential to keeping the rights of citizens privacy.

Some Hornets have shown support for this legislation however.

“People should already know for themselves that the internet is not a safe place to be,” said Jessica Wong ‘18. “It’s fair to the websites we visit that we are monitored in such a way.”

Emily Ng ‘17 said, “Honestly the internet itself is hard to keep private, no matter how hard we try nowadays.”

It is in fact important to keep these ideas in mind when surfing the web. You should always watch out for yourself on the internet because it can become dangerous and it is hard to regulate everything on the internet. However, it doesn’t mean that you should stop trying or give up on fighting for privacy. Privacy is as important now as ever and we should continue to strive to make the internet a safer place.

Privacy is a basic human right, along with free speech, and it shouldn’t even need a champion. However, this basic principle is being threatened and now needs the public to take a stand and fight for it.

 

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