Following their failure last week to repeal the Affordable Care Act, congressional Republicans were determined to prove this week that they can still be productive and pass legislation. Unfortunately, the bill that Republicans decided to pass has numerous consequences for the privacy of Americans.
S. J. Res. 34 is intended to kill some of the privacy rules put in place by the Obama administration late last year while the president was in a lame-duck session. According to John McKinnon of Fox Business, this rule “required telecommunications firms such as Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. to get customers’ permission to market their app and web-browsing history to third parties.”
It’s important to note that the Obama-era privacy rules aren’t currently being enforced, as they’re tied up in the courts after facing several legal challenges from the telecommunications industry. But by passing this bill, Congress has shown that they aren’t concerned with protecting the privacy of their constituents, even as personal privacy and security issues have received increased media attention following the controversies of the 2016 presidential election.
The response to Congress passing of this anti-consumer bill has ranged from outrage to public shaming, with the founder of the popular game Cards Against Humanity tweeting out, “If this shit passes I will buy the browser history of every congressman and congressional aide and publish it.” Meanwhile, consumer advocates are publishing information on how much money each member of Congress who voted in favor of the legislation received from the telecommunications and related industries, with the goal of informing Americans just how much their personal privacy was worth to their elected representatives.
Perhaps the most effective method to stop President Trump from signing this bad piece of legislation was to address him directly, as several advocacy groups did by taking out a full-page ad in The New York Times stating:
Dear Mr. President, You just got spied on. Big League. You know what it’s like, you really do. Don’t subject us all to the same $%!#. This is your chance to prove if you are with the people, or the money. It really is. Mr. President, you must veto S. J. Res. 34.
All of this great advocacy aside, it appears as though the president is prepared to sign the legislation into law given statements by the White House. And so while the Republican-controlled Congress has shown that they can pass pieces of legislation, they’ve also shown that the legislation that they do pass is often bad for the American consumer and those concerned about personal privacy.