Can you really buy any politician's web browsing history for only $1?

Can you really buy any politician's web browsing history for only $1?

CultureMarch 29, 2017 By Brian Frederick

The short answer? No.

Actually, that's the long answer, too. It just isn't possible. 

Rightfully (and unsurprisingly in 2017), people are freaking out about recent changes to FCC privacy rules. As the rumor goes, telecommunications companies can now sell your specific web browsing history with no repercussions, a breach of secrecy most people are uncomfortable with. Because of the government's move, crowdfunding campaigns are popping up all over the place asking everyone for at least $1 to buy politician's browsing history as payback.

As Verge points out, however (we take no credit for the author's intelligent analysis), "The Telecommunications Act explicitly prohibits the sharing of 'individually identifiable' customer information except under very specific circumstances. It’s much more permissive when it comes to 'aggregate' customer information, which is where things get squishier and the FCC rules become more important."

The author, Russell Brandom, goes on to say that if the campaigns succeed and go after, say, Verizon to get Paul Ryan's history, it's a blatant misuse of private information and illegal to sell on any grounds. 

"The Wiretap Act also makes it illegal to divulge the contents of electronic communications without the parties’ consent," Brandom adds, "which arguably includes browsing history."

It's important to stay active in knowing what's going on with all of this, however. The government suggests that companies being able to sell this type of big-data collection is a boost to the economy (which is true, it's huge business), however privacy activists warn it may come to a period where the information can be specifically fleshed out to understand what individual people are doing at all times. It's real sci-fi shit that's teetering on what old dudes in Washington are up to. 

Fight on, but understand that your money you just donated is probably going to buy some dude a new Xbox or something. Don't be so quick to jump on the latest Internet trends, it'll save you a few bucks.