The Corporate Overlords

To be fair, the Republicans attack on internet privacy is not quite as bad as it may seem.  Timothy Lee with the proper context in Vox:

The good news is that nothing is going to change right away. The Obama regulations [to protect privacy] weren’t scheduled to take effect until later this year, so the Republican bill simply preserves the status quo, which allows ISPs to sell customer data to advertisers. And while the law currently allows ISPs to do this, most aren’t currently doing it.

What the bill does do, however, is open the door for ISPs to sell customer data to advertisers in the future. Which means that customers who don’t want their ISPs sharing this kind of information with advertising networks are going to have to do some extra work to opt out of any programs their ISPs eventually put into place…

Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin has the most thorough explanation of the Republican bill and the Obama regulations it blocks. A key point he makes is that all the major ISPs have promised that if they start selling customers’ private data to advertisers, they’ll give customers a chance to opt out.

So if you don’t want to participate in a program like this, you’ll need to keep an eye out for announcements by your ISP.

 The problem is that it’s not clear where a program like this might be announced and what customers might have to do to get themselves excluded. It’s possible customers will get an email announcing the change, but it’s also possible ISPs will simply post a notice in an obscure corner of their websites, where most customers won’t notice. We also don’t know when any particular ISP might announce a program like this. So if you’re worried, there might not be a better option than periodically checking your ISP’s website or setting up a Google News alert for your ISP’s name and privacy.

That said, maybe not quite as bad as you thought ≠ good or okay. To hell with Republicans on this. This legislation passed by pure party line vote in both houses. The only people I’ve seen defending this are delusional-level partisans (okay, that might be most partisans), and, of course the internet providers. Yes, they need to compete on equal ground with google, etc., they claim. For one, I’m already paying Time-Warner a bunch every month for my internet. When it comes to google, we have an implicit deal– they provide me an amazing search engine and I provide them data about my searches.

Anyway, what’s amazing about this is what complete and utter disregard they have for the interests of their ordinary constituents as compared to their corporate overlords at TWC, Comcast, etc.  And, obviously, they know they can get away with such a transparently anti-consumer law.  This is a party who’s primary legislative goal is tax cuts for rich people yet has managed to win complete control of government based on scaring people of government, gays, minorities, political correctness, etc.  What’s one more giveaway to the rich guys over the interests of ordinary Americans.

My 11-year old saw me reading this article this morning, and even trying to be as fair as I could (as Lee is here) to the GOP position, my son was just incredulous that Republicans could and would act this way.  He’s got a point.
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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

3 Responses to The Corporate Overlords

  1. Terrant says:

    I imagine that some of the smart guys in the Open Source community will come up with something that we can run to obfuscate what we are doing online.

  2. Jon K says:

    For years I have subscribed to a VPN service that costs me about 10 dollars a month. It encrypts my connection and routes it through a company in another country that doesn’t keep records of its customers activities. I use it when I want to borrow materials via bit torrent. Anyone who really wants to obfuscate their internet activity from snooping ISPs can do so via a service like this. There are tons of them that exist.

    That being said, I agree that it is frustrating that I pay a company close to $100 a month for internet service. I would like that service to be private. Since I know that it isn’t, I adjust my behavior accordingly.

    One thing most people don’t realize is that you are probably using your ISP’s DNS service to route you to all your websites. You can change that to Google’s DNS service and avoid a great deal of ISP advertising by changing your DNS settings.

    Go to control panel, click network and sharing center, click change adapter settings, right click on your connection, select properties, double click internet protocol version 4, and select the box that says use the following DNS server addresses. Change the first one to 8.8.8.8 and the second one to 8.8.4.4

    This has Google do your webpage lookups instead of your ISP. Google’s DNS lookup is a lot more private than having your ISP do it. Your ISP can and does tie your webpage lookups to your IP address. They then use this information to target ads at you.

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