After Congress voted to kill broadband privacy protections, the internet has been abuzz with several people running misleading campaigns to buy Congress’ internet history.
As it turns out, you cannot buy the internet histories of Congress.
One of the more noteworthy campaigns was launched by actor Misha Collins, who setup a GoFundMe to collect funds to “buy Congress’ internet history.”
“Congress recently voted to strip Americans of their privacy rights by voting for SJR34, a resolution that allows Internet Service Providers to collect, and sell your sensitive data without your consent or knowledge. Since Congress has made our privacy a commodity, let’s band together to buy THEIR privacy.
This GoFundMe will pay to purchase the data of every Congressperson who voted for SJR34 and to make it publicly available.
PS: No, we won’t “doxx” people. We will not share information that will impact the safety & security of their families (such as personal addresses). However, all other details are fair game. It says so right in the resolution that they voted to approve.
Game on, Congress,” the campaign said.
Collins isn’t the only crowdfunding campaign trying to collect money to purchase Congress’ internet history. There is another one entitled “Purchase Private Internet Histories,” ran by Adam McElhaney.
By Tuesday afternoon between the two campaigns, Collins raised $85,674 and McElhaney raised $202,171.
We aren’t accusing these two particular campaigns of scamming, they are likely just misinformed, but there are probably other campaigns out there scamming people– so be careful.
There is no way to buy anyone’s browsing history. You cannot just walk up to the doors of an internet service provider (ISP) and request the service history of whoever you want, according to Techdirt.
“The answer to this nonsensical question – that falls in the category of FAKE NEWS – is a flat-out NO,” Verizon spokesman Rich Young said in an email to USNews. “This is nothing more than worthless dribble bouncing around on the internet.”
The law that Congress recently passed, SJR34, is for advertiser targeting. What it allows is for ISPs to collect and sell data to other companies. This means your personal browsing habits enable tailoring ads towards you.
For example, if you recently visited websites about puppies and kittens, you are more likely to get advertisements about food for pets.
The ad exchange, or any of the advertisers, know nothing about you besides your IP address, location, and the previous web pages your browser visited. Essentially, these are smart ads customized for each individual person so that web owners aren’t buying ads and losing revenue because the consumer isn’t interested in what is displayed on their screen.
While IP addresses could essentially be tied back to citizens along with the data, this scenario still depends on a number of factors, such as is it a static IP address or a dynamic IP address, and how many people are in the household using the internet?
The Telecommunications Act explicitly prohibits the sharing of “individually identifiable” customer information except under very specific circumstances.
The main thing to take away from this is that no one is out there bidding on your internet history connected to your IP address in a nice little package wrapped up in a silver bow. I would worry more about the NSA watching you fap or learning that you’re eating a burrito and have a fat woman fetish.
If you are really that concerned, consider using Tor anonymizing browser or a VPN (virtual private network) to keep that activity encrypted and hidden. Although, you need to trust your VPN provider not to track you and sell your data itself, which is a lot easier when it’s all bundled on a server.