The Lawmakers Who Voted to Sell Your Browsing History Just Got Payback

May 5th 2017

Mike Rothschild

Activist group Fight for the Future erected four billboards that publicly shame Republican members of Congress who voted to repeal Obama administration rules barring Federal Communications Commission (FCC) internet service providers (ISPs) from selling sensitive information about a person's internet history.



The billboards highlight the amount of money each took in campaign donations from telecom companies, accusing them of doing the bidding of special interests.

In early April, both houses of Congress voted along party lines to allow ISPs, such as AT&T and Verizon, to collect, store, share, and sell certain types of personal information to advertisers and marketing firms. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the new rules will allow ISPs to:

  • Sell data about your location, demographics, and browsing history to advertisers.
  • Hijack search results and redirect traffic to paying third parties.
  • Insert ads into web pages that would otherwise not have them.
  • Pre-install URL-recording software onto phones.
  • Insert tracking cookies into every website address you go to.

However, broadband companies called the Obama-era rules "unprecedented, misguided, counterproductive, and potentially extremely harmful." They argued that individual websites like Google, Netflix, and Facebook are already allowed to use and sell data. For example, Google tracks browsing data and scans emails sent through Gmail, and uses that data to tailor ads seen on Google websites.

Apparently, Congressional Republicans agreed, and President Donald Trump signed the bill revoking the previous rules.

Fight for the Future wants people to know that the reason a bill benefiting telecom companies sailed through Congress is that telecom companies have given a lot of money to Congress.



The four lawmakers targeted by the billbords accepted a combined $196,905 in campaign contributions from the telecom industry in the last election cycle."

Specifically, according to Gizmodo, the billboards target "Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), John Rutherford (R-Fla.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

The group used hundreds of small donations to crowdfund the billboards, which show the cumulative amount each lawmaker has taken in their Congressional career. As the group explained, they want each Member of Congress' constituents to know exactly how much it cost for their privacy to be sold off.



“Congress voting to gut Internet privacy was one of the most blatant displays of corruption in recent history,” Tiffiniy Cheng, Fight for the Future co-founder, wrote on the group's website. “They might think that they’ve gotten away with it, but they’re wrong. These billboards are just the latest example of the growing public backlash to these attacks on our Internet freedom and privacy.”