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The U.S. Senate Just Sold You Out to Advertisers

Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon can sell your browsing information to third parties under a measure that just cleared the Senate.

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In a 50-to-48 vote along party lines, the U.S. Senate decided to kill FCC rules blocking your ISP from selling your browsing history to the advertising industry without permission. Should the change pass the House, as is expected, the likes of Comcast and Verizon will be able to make money disclosing what you buy, where you browse, and what you search from your own home, all without asking permission.

In an immediate signal that the vote will only benefit monied corporate interests and not the roughly 70 percent of Americans with a home broadband connection, the Internet & Television Association trade group gloated over their congressional victory:

“We appreciate today’s Senate action to repeal unwarranted FCC rules that deny consumers consistent privacy protection online and violate competitive neutrality. … Our industry remains committed to offering services that protect the privacy and security of the personal information of our customers. We support this step towards reversing the FCC’s misguided approach and look forward to restoring a consistent approach to online privacy protection that consumers want and deserve.”

It’s unclear how the broadband industry could be “committed” to user privacy while backing regulatory changes that would permit the sale of users’ private data. NCTA spokesperson Joy Sims returned a request for comment and explanation with a link to an unrelated section of the NCTA website. The Electronic Frontier Foundation decried the vote as putting “ISP profits over your privacy” and a potential “crushing loss for online privacy”:

ISPs act as gatekeepers to the Internet, giving them incredible access to records of what you do online. They shouldn’t be able to profit off of the information about what you search for, read about, purchase, and more without your consent.

The EFF further warned that without the FCC protections, ISPs would not only be able to commodify your browser history, but “[hijack] their customers’ search queries and [redirect] them to a place customers hadn’t asked for” and “inject ads into your traffic based on your browsing history.” Should Republicans succeed in dismantling the Obama-era rules through this action sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake, the FCC would be barred from ever reestablishing such consumer protections in the future.

Wait! Before you go on about your day, ask yourself: How likely is it that the story you just read would have been produced by a different news outlet if The Intercept hadn’t done it? Consider what the world of media would look like without The Intercept. Who would hold party elites accountable to the values they proclaim to have? How many covert wars, miscarriages of justice, and dystopian technologies would remain hidden if our reporters weren’t on the beat? The kind of reporting we do is essential to democracy, but it is not easy, cheap, or profitable. The Intercept is an independent nonprofit news outlet. We don’t have ads, so we depend on our members — 35,000 and counting — to help us hold the powerful to account. Joining is simple and doesn’t need to cost a lot: You can become a sustaining member for as little as $3 or $5 a month. That’s all it takes to support the journalism you rely on.Become a Member 

Contact the author:

Sam Biddle[email protected]​

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Courtesy of a TI commentor:
There is a gofundme page to collect money to buy and publish online the internet histories of all those politicians who voted for blocking the rule protecting the public’s privacy.

Try using an ad blocker such as Symantec’s Endpoint Protection, one of the most effective blockers available. I don’t know if that makes any difference but, it will seriously block any attempts to hack your computer. Microsoft called me when my desktop H-P computer was hacked a few months ago, having had 5000 intrusions within about 2 days. So they told me to install this program to block / prevent hacking, ad, etc., all threats, especially ads. That is what Microsoft’s Security Dept. recommends.

Christian C Holmer

Our latest Ep covers how GOP Senators voted to let ISPs sell your data. @OneKade is crowdfunding to buy THEIR data:

THIS is why I prefer vpn.

I use a private ISP in Mexico, so this egregious breach of Americans’ privacy would not affect me directly.

However, I would want to know who the provider was for any Website I access.

It may well be that this law will be found unconstitutional, as it allows the sale of private information without compensation to its originators.

Not sure what you mean, though I hope you’re right.

If this is between private entities, why would it be unconstitutional? Does it impair contracts, or “merely” create a legal presumption that you’ve agreed to certain terms (and that certain TOS can be imputed to you by these private “service providers”) unless you actively seek to negotiate other terms?

I really wonder about this. How much can they do? How far does it stretch?

Wonder what will come of the Spokeo suit.

This is fascism! The Corporation of The President wants to know if you are one of their 40% of their members who are surfing pornography! “The crawl toward despotism within a failed democracy is always incremental. No regime planning to utterly extinguish civil liberties advertises its intentions in advance. It pays lip service to liberty and justice while obliterating the institutions and laws that make them possible. Its opponents, including those within the establishment, make sporadic attempts to resist, but week by week, month by month, the despot and his reactionary allies methodically consolidate power. Those inside the machinery of government and the courts who assert the rule of law are purged. Critics, including the press, are attacked, ridiculed and silenced. The state is reconfigured until the edifice of tyranny is unassailable.”

The real bad guys in this story are the ISP’s. We must declare war on their desire to profit from the sale of our privacy.

No filibuster, eh? The corporate Dems, and that’s damn near all of them, are complicit in the corporate takeover of American life. Politics has been reduced to seeing which team gets to count the most corporate lucre.

The two party system is a hoax. Both parties sell out on a regular basis. Who can count all of the lies from either party since the last election? Garbage system, garbage politicians, garbage parties and garbage media. Screwed yet?

This just might lead to surge in VPN subscription. One thing I do know is I am never getting a smart TV. I am not that lazy that I need the TV also to do everything for me. But then I am not an American and my TV service providers and ISPs are not the same. I have that choice which the Americans don’t !

Donald J Trump and his kids are nothing but the very best, and I mean the best. They are so beautiful, good looking, and successful, and rich. One day I will be a Trump.

do you have any idea of what the name of the house bill will be?

But, happily, that’s private, comme on, Trump’s tax return will stay top secret. Woof!

I believe Ivanka’s stuff if ordered online is exempt from this instead you get a chance at a draw for a rifle and MAGA baseball hat.

I just ran across something that helps put this in context:

A key take-home message there is that URLs being collected by third party sites can contain all kinds of sneaky details at the end, like an OKCupid user’s self-described levels of drug and alcohol use. They also often contain usernames. So broadband providers sitting at the source of the web are in a great position to tie in all the little personal details that might be here and there.

It really is a rotten system. If we are lucky, in five years nobody will be able to believe that anyone ever actually browsed a corporate website – go back to a handful of universities, foundations, and zealously independent bulletin boards with important material, maybe. That’s how it worked in the 90s, and it worked in the 90s.

If we’re less lucky, the intensity of the first wave of inquisitors will lead to a second with a more practical bent, and every last piece of electronic equipment will simply be smashed up and thrown in the fire.

And if we go the way we are — then the pathetic inmates of Future-World will spend their every waking moment in continual prayer to gods that they know are truly omniscient and omnipotent, at least where ruining their lives are concerned. If they do all the right things at the right times in the right pattern, maybe the Gods of Employment will save them… for LAST. The others can expected to be unemployable useless eaters sooner than that, and only the shedding of their blood can make the sun rise another day.

The sad part is there is a population of Americans out here not paying attention to any of this. Similar to the GIANT portion of eligible voters who decided not to vote back on Nov. 8th, they will tune this out; this will mostly go unnoticed across the country. Too many Americans continue to allow our government officials and fractions of the private sector control our freedoms. The government and private sector infringing on our rights is bad enough, what makes it worse is they depend on the ignorance and uninformed American. I think many American are guilty of living in a 1st world country where they take things for granted, this is great opportunity for elites to exploit a 1st world country because they see the population not paying attention.
This same concept can be applied to the finance crisis and Wall Street, the military industrial complex, and more. Again, too many US citizens simply do not pay enough attention to the very issues that affect us all.

You know what this calls for? I sternly-worded open letter to all tech companies asking them to be nicer!

Let’s say that I run a website and serve content that is under copyright. By injecting advertisements into such pages, would not the ISPs be violating copyright law by creating a derivative work?

In addition to injecting ads, they would also be able to inject child pornography images set to a size of 1×1 pixel which will live in your browser cache long enough for the FBI to show up. So don’t piss off your ISP.

A list (or a link to a list) of the votes of Senators would be good.

VPN is your friend…

My entire network is routed through a full time VPN provided by a large and known offshore source that does no logging. My ISP can sell whatever they want. They got nothing but the IP of the VPN server my VPN router connects to. That’s it. Tor is not necessary but Tails is there if need be.

Well, at first this looks to be something really bad! But, on the other hand a gateway to control what they hear!! Reverse it and use it as a voice back to them.

Actually this is a good way for people to wake up and start taking the preventative steps they always treated as unnecessary. As time goes on it will become painfully obvious it’s importance. I predict it will be sooner than later.

Sen. Jeff Flake’s statement following the passing of his sponsored legislation:

“Resolution will protect consumers from overreaching internet regulation while not changing or lessening existing consumer privacy regulations

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, today released the following statement on the Senate passage of his resolution to repeal economically harmful midnight broadband regulations issued by the Obama administration. The Senate approved Flake’s resolution by a vote of 50-48:

“The FCC’s midnight regulation has the potential to limit consumer choice, stifle innovation, and jeopardize data security by destabilizing the internet ecosystem. Passing my resolution is the first step toward restoring a consumer-friendly approach to internet privacy regulation that empowers consumers to make informed choices on if and how their data can be shared. It will not change or lessen existing consumer privacy protections.”

Flake’s resolution, S.J.Res. 34, would not change or lessen existing consumer privacy regulations. It is designed to block an attempt by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expand its regulatory jurisdiction and impose prescriptive data restrictions on internet service providers. These restrictions have the potential to negatively impact consumers and the future of internet innovation.

S.J.Res. 34 would provide for congressional disapproval of the FCC rule under the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law that empowers Congress to repeal federal regulations. The resolution would also prevent the FCC from issuing similarly harmful regulations in the future.

On March 1, 2017, Flake wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal laying out his argument for the resolution. Read the op-ed here.


Cosponsors: U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Dan Sullivan (R-Ark.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)
Flake’s resolution is supported by Americans for Tax Reform, American Commitment, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce”

Re: Marco

(1)Flake’s resolution, S.J.Res. 34, would not change or lessen existing consumer privacy regulations. (2)It is designed to block an attempt by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expand its regulatory jurisdiction and impose prescriptive data restrictions on internet service providers. (3)These restrictions have the potential to negatively impact consumers and the future of internet innovation.

Let’s fact-check these three convoluted farcical statements in the order presented:
(1) Completely false! The entire intent and purpose of this “resolution”(legislative end-run around citizen’s right to be secure in the maintenance of personal privacy) is to both change and lessen existing “consumer privacy regulations”
(2) Absolutely false premise! The FCC did not “attempt…to expand its regulatory jurisdiction and impose prescriptive data restrictions on internet service providers.”; it promulgated regulation of the internet service providers use or misuse of their customers private data without prior authorization by the customer.
(3) A completely farcical and hypocritical conclusion! It is the Senate Resolution, not the regulatory efforts of the FCC, that will “…negatively impact consumers and the future of internet innovation.”
As Usual,

Everyone: This. They can’t share your info if they can’t put in the necessary effort to track it. I’m not saying Tor is perfect, but it’s the best answer to this BS.

In a 50-to-48 vote along party lines, the U.S. Senate decided to kill FCC rules blocking your ISP from selling your browsing history to the advertising industry without permission.

The key phrase here is “without permission.”

Understand what is going on.

ISP are going to keep doing everything they have been doing–the only thing that changes is that they no longer will need a couple lines of legalese in the contract that you have no choice to sign if you want access to the internet.

ISPs just want in on that Upskirt Economy.

I think media outlets, journalists and ISPs (obviously others too, but these three are in my mind right now) should be legally required to explain in excruciatingly detail exactly what data they are selling/trading to who and what they receive in return–and they should have to get permission each time they want to sell or trade each specific piece of information.

Even better–just ban the whole fucking Upskirt Economy.

The biggest reason corporate spying is out of control is that journalism and journalists are fist deep into the Upskirt Economy and the closest we come to critique from them is when they are trying to keep other competitors out of the game.

Corporate spying is a huge contributer to why people don’t trust the media and journalism.

“journalism and journalists are fist deep into the Upskirt Economy”

How so?

Journalism makes its money by spying on their readers and then selling that information to data brokers. Journalism also spies on their readers in order to increase the efficacy of their own marketing efforts.

When you look at the revenue stream for journalism and journalists it is all based upon spying on their readers. Essentially journalists are bait used to lure unsuspecting people into certain compromising positions so that a camera can be used to take pictures of their metaphorical naughty bits. Those pictures are sold and traded to companies that specialize in this sort of fetish. The Upskirt Economy.

Now obviously journalists aren’t the only ones shaking their money maker for the man in order to produce content that will draw in more people to be spied on, but journalists really need to be called out on this. Pornographers are doing a better job protecting peoples privacy than journalists because they are actually trying to sell the content they make, instead of using that content to lure people into a position that they can be spied on.

What kind of world is that?

“would permit the sale of users’ private data.” So much for American values. Do you remember when our parents told us it was impolite to give someone’s phone number unless you had permission from the person that gave you their number in the first place. This bill and the entire telemarketing industry are built on bad manners allowed by ignorant paid off politicians

Does using Tor Browser deny the ISP access to your browsing history?

I believe it does. How can I invest in Tor.

Yes it does (probably the easiest solution for most folks – browser based on Firefox):

A VPN (example here: should also frustrate efforts by your ISP to monitor, keep a permanent record of and sell all activity coming across your internet connection.

Yes the Tor Broser does that and is probably the easiest solution for most folks (you just install this Firefox Browser and use it) of course only things accessed through this browser are private:

Another solution is a VPN (example here: that you install on your PC and it basically encrypts everything coming into and out of your PC. Companies use these with employees computers alot. Takes a little more effort than the Tor Browser but everything hidden from your ISP (don’t count on it protecting you from the govt though).

Of course it also means your e-mail through your ISP is there for their taking/storing/selling too now. Might be good to wean yourself off that (I have to do that now). As another commenter mentions Proton Mail seems a good provider providing privacy for their users.

Even HTTPS limits what they can see. They could figure some things out by the IPs you connect to, but they wouldn’t know which pages you’re looking at, and can’t inject anything in your traffic.

Nothing surprises me about this group of hoodlums in DC claiming one thing and doing just the opposite! Has anyone else noticed how once Trump was given the office, slimy con artists have begun ignoring the ‘Do Not Call List’ and have been saturating the phone lines? Just a preview of how the “Old West” mentality has started by the “Sidewinding Republicans!” Established laws mean nothing if they interfere with their gods, wealth and power!!!

Thank you Sam Biddle.
I posted a list of Rs in key states to call this morning.

Difficult to embarrass them, but we might try outraged protests of an online nature.
I am out of ideas at the moment. At least the Dems look better, but I am not fooled.


All the more reason to use TOR web browser. Might as well use proton mail for email services.

Wouldn’t you rather have your own milgrade system?

If so, let me know.

“We support this step towards reversing the FCC’s misguided approach..” meaning we and the giant ISP’s paid huge amounts of money via our lobbyists for this and it’s about bloody time it came to fruiition.
The award for Troll of the Day goes to General Hercules.

I am seriously wondering what kind of data the ISP will sell of people who spend days together right here at the Intercept, arguing with old friends and enemies about stuff that they glean from googled searches. Could Ms Mona and Prof Salzmann please help me understand why they would be at all bothered about this kind of misbehavior from the ISP?

Also — can anyone explain why there was no Democratic filibuster for this? They had every D opposing, and the moment the issue hit the media everyone would be on their side. Instead… they’re filibustering Gorsuch, which means either absolutely nothing or else Trump appoints someone much worse.

The Congressional Review Act, which was used to notify this regulation, states that only a simple majority vote is needed. No filibuster is allowed.

Guesing because they couldn’t. It’s not a new law getting passed. It’s actually the Senate using a GOP passed capability they gave themselves last year (I believe) so they could go back and kill of agency actions that would be offensive to profitable lobbying industries.

Now, there is a way that people could both maintain their privacy (in aggregate, not detail) and do good (or make money, all depends on how you set it up).
You’d need an app or plugin that, in the background, when there was bandwidth and computing power to spare, did random searches/browsing with some not so random ones thrown in that would skew the data towards sites you wanted to support (for good, or in return for money).
Wouldn’t be too hard to write, could be setting up to respect a data budget, and attacks the entire selling/trading/using your history for money industry right at its core.

Using a VPN may be clever, but it is not the best possible approach.

With a VPN, you trust some corporation not to resell your browsing data.

With an ISP, you should be able to – and did – trust some corporation not to resell your browsing data.

If you think the market can deliver a VPN that is not selling you out, why can’t it deliver a broadband provider that isn’t selling you out?

The broadband providers have huge and unjustified monopoly power. But I think this puts them in the same sort of position as the bus lines in the Old South. A monopolist, surprisingly enough, is susceptible to boycotts because he expects to collect free profit from each and every customer! So if the customers boycott the monopolist, there is no way for them to make up for that.

The flip side is that if the customers don’t act, they shouldn’t expect things to go on as they were. If selling your data makes the bastards a profit, why do you think they will not start interfering with VPN connections just like China?

I agree with what you say about VPNs selling data, but ONLY IF you are using a free VPN service. I pay for Private Internet Access’s VPN service, and it is explicit my data is not being collected or sold to a third-party company outside subpoenas.*

Now, if it secretly is, that’s a whole other argument, but at least in that situation, they are breaking the law. Free VPNs require no such restraint.


You might want to check into reviews of various VPN providers, especially regarding maintenance of logs, etc. There are all kinds of providers who keep zero logs, no tracking, etc. Research is your friend

Private Internet Access is a great VPN with a long track record of not retaining data. Been using it for years. Fast, reliable, plenty of options as to where you “pop out.” A better choice for the average user than Tor. Highly recommended.

Just to make sure I understand this technically, they only get to see the domains you visit with HTTPS right? They can’t inject ads into HTTPS either.

So the solution is really to make sure nothing on the web is unencrypted (something we should do anyway after snowden) and take it entirely out of the hands of politics.

Politicians aren’t debating whether your city roads maintenance crew gets to go in your home and look at the magazines you’re reading and leave ads pamphlets accordingly because everyone has a lock on their door so passing a law that lets people break in is so belligerent, invasive and politically costly that no one tries. We should just do the same thing electronically.

the term “browser history” seems a bit misleading. ISPs are not going to access your hard drive and look at your logs, as they dont need to.

Good thought. There are others that can take care of browser histories.

Christian C Holmer

I do not like green eggs and ham…

I Prefer braver men like Julian…

Just like Pamela Andersan…

I backed A Kickstarter project called Flter that aims to encrypt your entire home network so your internet provider won’t be able to see ANY web activity. I didn’t know this was going to be passed at the time but I’m sure happy I did now…

To say I’m mad as h*ll is an understatement. Cable is ripping off ppl left and right. Scream at your pols vi e-mail at least every day. Don’t stop remind them you are furious. Do it several times a day. Will it fix the problem? NO but at least they NOW you are mad. If you don’t scream at them they think you are happy.

Scream at your pols via e-mail and phone*

Thank you Republicans for selling out my privacy…woohoo!!

I thought they already do that. Otherwise how do they know I use old spice?

They can easily smell you over the net. If they couldn’t then why use Old Spice?

Why “The Senate?” Why not “Senate Republicans?” Why give Republicans a free pass in the headline?

Great point! We just updated the headline.

Indeed, this is not a good day for privacy rights!!!
The EFF citation should be read by everyone; especially the TAKE ACTION advice in the closing.

1. To be absolutely precise, your ISP could track and record all your HTTP traffic, and the domain name you visit for HTTPS websites.
2. We’ve heard some arguments that is just what Google or Facebook do, but there’s a big difference. You can choose not to use Google or Facebook, and it’s easy to install free tools that block their tracking on other parts of the web. EFF even makes such a tool, called Privacy Badger! But changing ISPs or paying for a VPN is hard (and some people don’t have more than one choice of ISP). For more, see our post on busting three ISP privacy rollback myths.

The EFF’s Privacy Badger application is an excellent tool.
As Usual,

How incredibly stupid can the Senate and House be?This needs to be defeated once and for all.And any piece of shit politician that agreed to allowing ISPs to sell our Internet habits, needs thrown out on their asses!!

A vote that clean along party lines (all R’s voted Yea, all D’s voted Nay) is ridiculous. They might as well stay home and just let McConnell and Schumer do the voting for them.

Make sure your browser settings are set to leave no history and get a “do not track” app to add to your browser. The market will fix the government/big corporate fascist agenda.

That won’t help at all now, they can still track you at the ISP level.

Clearly you’ve never read this handy fine print: “Private Browsing doesn’t make you anonymous on the Internet. Your employer or Internet service provider can still know what page you visit.”

That will not counteract the effects of this vote. Your ISP typically knows which site you go to visit, and unless that traffic is encrypted they can also know what you’re viewing as they act as an intermediary between you and every thing that you access. Since the legislative angle is lost, and the ISPs never had incentive to protect our privacy outside of that, the only recourse left is that all sites use encryption all of the time (and use obfuscated URLs on top of that), or as end users we start leveraging VPN services that are open to regular third party audits. The latter heretofore is nonexistent or unavailable.

use an ad blocker like ublock origin to deny advertisers the info.
try TorBrowser or Tails for a better approximation of anonymity, even your ISP wont know what you’re up to.

Jose, you’re way, way, way off.
Your ISP sees all your traffic whether you use incognito or not.
One could use a VPN but then *they* would have a log of your traffic. And they’re not regulated, so who knows what they do with the data.

The “market” won’t fix anything. They win; we lose. Again.

I don’t see how you lose if advertisers have your information. They are not stealing your wallet. All they are doing is helping you by making it easier for you find stuff that you want to buy or have a habit of buying.

Of course, their banners are very irritating, but then they are not lying to you like fake news as in NYT and WaPo. I don’t think you should complain of minor inconveniences.

Would you be comfortable with the world knowing a list of every domain your ROUTER has ever requested information from? And if you are, how about the rest of the people in your household that share that router with you?

What if you (or someone in the household) has malware that makes requests from less than reputable sites. How long until this information is used in a way to negatively impact someone?

Just in regular browsing right now you may visit a page on it could include links to which could include links to other sites and so on.

Right now, people are getting upset on your behalf, because they understand the deeper implications of this that you obviously do not. The govt is aware that most people don’t understand or don’t care and are happy to take advantage of it if it fills their campaign coffers.

Which will do exactly nothing for you. I suggest you get a serious adblocker and block all cookies. And first of all an effective VPN. Then you will be somewhat safe from the commercial pests. If you want to prevent the services from snooping on you, I suggest you get rid of your electronics.

Sorry Jose, that won’t be the least bit effective. Your ISP will have a log of where you have been online regardless of your browser history settings, use of “private mode”, or setting the Do Not Track flag (for websites that choose to comply). It is this log from which they will be selling your online habits.

You can use the Tor browser and network ( to improve your privacy substantially, but unfortunately most people won’t and the peddling of your information to the ad-slingers will continue to increase unabated.

“The market”



That’s why ATT and Google are putting fiber into your neighborhood.

Filters SVG