Activists to target lawmakers who vote against net privacy rules

Vote against privacy, get publicly shamed.

That’s the message online activist group Fight for the Future had Monday for members of Congress as they prepared this week to take up a resolution which would roll back privacy rules passed last year by the Federal Communications Commission. The group threatened to post on billboards the names of every lawmaker who voted in favor of the resolution along with the message, “They betrayed you.”

The billboards are just the beginning of a campaign to target members of Congress who are siding with broadband providers over everyday citizens in the privacy vote, said Evan Green, campaign director at Fight for the Future.

Fight for the Future ad

Mock-up of a billboard ad designed by activist group Fight for the Future to target lawmakers who vote to strike down privacy rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission. Fight for the Future revealed the ad on Monday, March 27, 2017. (Courtesy Fight for the Future.)

“Congress should know by now that when you come for the internet, the internet comes for you,” Greer said in a statement. “People from across the political spectrum are outraged, and every lawmaker who votes to take away our privacy will regret it come election day.”

The group, which helped lead the charge for net neutrality and against the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, said it would run its initial billboard ad in Washington, D.C. and in select congressional districts. It plans to launch a fundraising campaign to place additional billboard ads in the districts of “key lawmakers.” Those ads would include the amount of money those members of Congress raised in campaign contributions from the telecommunications industry.

Fight for the Future’s move follows the Senate’s passage on party lines last week of a related resolution sponsored by Senator Jeff Flake, R-Arizona. The resolutions target the broadband privacy rules the FCC passed last year. Those rules require broadband providers to seek customer permission before collecting and sharing certain private information like their physical location and the content of their emails or texts. They also require providers to take “reasonable” steps to protect the customer information they do collect.

Broadband providers and their allies have been pressing to overturn the rules, wanting to have as much leeway to collect personal information as do Google, Facebook and other web companies. The FCC rules don’t cover such companies, because communications law doesn’t give it authority over them.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on its version of the resolution this week. To take effect the resolution would require President Trump’s signature.

In addition to¬†overturning the FCC’s privacy rules, which were largely due to take effect later this year, the resolutions would prohibit the agency from issuing the same or similar rules in the future, leaving broadband providers’ privacy practices largely unregulated.

Photo at top: Sen. Jeff Flake, left, R-Arizona, in 2014. The Senate on Thursday passed a resolution sponsored by Flake that would overturn privacy protections put in place by the Federal Communications Commission. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)


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