Our Representatives Are Not Representing Us

Forget the environment. Forget our privacy. It’s all meaningless. What a week. I’m not party line supporter–and not interested in being described as conservative or liberal–and it is a very rare thing indeed for me to even broach politics, but this has been a very bad week. I can’t stand the level of irresponsibility I’ve seen in these past few months, I don’t care who what party it comes from. When legislation is repealed that would protect against climate change, albeit in a small but measurable way, and a climatologist is attacked–yes, attacked–by our legislators when he meets with them in committee, I have a hard time saying our representatives represent us. 90% of the scientific community, I’ve read, agree that humans are irreversibly altering our climate, but our GOP politicians refuse to believe it. Coal and oil pockets run very deep.

Then there’s the issue of congress selling out our online privacy. Earlier this week, both the Senate and House–strictly on party lines–votes to allow internet service providers (so that’s your AT&T, Comcast, etc) to collect and sell our personally identifiable information from their networks to companies who want it WITHOUT OUR PERMISSION. The sponsor of the bill lied about how it was unfair competitive advantage for companies like Facebook and Google to have and sell that data and ISPs can’t, but that’s apples and oranges. Those are about specific ad networks that are connected to those services. Which is why when you visit, say, walmart.com and browse for a cleaning product, you may see that very same product as an ad on Facebook. ISPs get EVERYTHING. And they have your personal information, such as contact info and maybe even your SSN. And instead of offering an opt out, now they can sell it all off unbeknownst to all of us.

Why is this an issue? Let’s play out a scenario. Let’s say the same said congress was successful in repealing the ACA and pre-existing conditions became a thing again. I just had a horrible illness. I’m also now paying for my own health insurance (at enormous expense). So Big Health Insurance Company A buys the data from my ISP, Comcast, and can see I’ve been researching “viral meningitis” for 3-4 weeks. Now they have information that can be used against me to deny me coverage.

That’s just a what-if. How many countless real situations will there be? Employers looking into potential hires. Some other kind of car, health, or life insurance able to see the kinds of things you look at and run their algorithims to say you are more likely to do this or that, and use it to raise your rates. The invasion of your PERSONAL, IDENTIFIABLE habits, locations, purchases.

I wrote all three of my representaties in the House and Senate, urging them to not vote for this. To not blindly follow their party into this terrible act.

Rep. French Hill has not replied, but he supported it. (Only two GOP representatives opposed it.)

Here is Sen. Tom Cotton’s reply (or his staffer/intern):

As you know, in December 2016, the FCC released a new set of rules which claimed to provide increased privacy protection, choice, and transparency in how internet service providers (ISPs) use consumers’ personal data. The rules provide broadband consumers an option to “opt out” if they no longer want ISPs to share their personal information with businesses for advertising purposes. Earlier this Congress, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced a congressional resolution of disapproval of the FCC’s data privacy rules. I proudly supported this measure as it would nullify the flawed rules which allow the FCC to regulate ISPs, while keeping the most important consumer privacy protections in place. I share your concern for strengthening our laws to ensure American citizens’ privacy is protected. As technology evolves, it’s imperative that our laws are updated to protect constitutional rights and reflect the modes of communication most commonly used. 

So get rid of the rule that enforced opt-out but that’s somehow ensuring our privacy is protected. What? If his claims are true then the vote would not have been strictly by party line. What Sen. Cotton doesn’t mention is the $70,025 he received from telecom. That’s nearly twice the median household income in Arkansas.

Here is Sen. John Boozman’s (staffer’s) reply:

I believe in protecting an open, free and vibrant Internet. Congress has a duty to see that our laws are fair, not only to the companies involved, but also to citizens across the nation that use technology every day. I believe the FCC should focus on removing barriers to competition and allowing the private sector to more effectively allocate our broadband resources. While we may not see eye-to-eye on this issue, please know I appreciate your feedback, and will keep your thoughts in mind should S.J.Res. 34, or related legislation come before the U.S. Senate for a vote. 

Barriers to competition? Allocate resources? My personal information is not a resource for my representatives to allocate by allowing these companies to have my personal data without my permission. He clearly does not have have an understanding of this issue if he bought into the lie it is about competition. And the $56,450 he received from telecom I’m sure had no sway in his “opinion”.

There is no justification for selling out your constituents. There’s no argument that can be made in defense of this bill other than that the Republican party believes that increasing the profits of telecom companies is more important than protecting the privacy of people.

Our Representatives Are Not Representing Us