Montana Politics Steve Daines

Senator Daines: Selling Your Privacy Rights to ISPs

Written by Don Pogreba
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Senator Daines is a hypocrite on privacy who just voted to make your Internet history a corporate commodity–and it seems the Montana press is unreasonably protecting his privacy by not telling you how he voted.

On January 27, 2017, Senator Daines issued a press release touting his support for data privacy. According to his press release, protecting the privacy rights of Internet users is a critical role of government:

“Our personal information has become a form of currency,” Daines stated. “Hackers are everywhere and we need to take action to ensure our data is secure. I’m pleased to see our state’s leaders coming together to raise awareness about the need to protect privacy.”

Daines loves talking about Internet privacy. As a person who got elected to the House and eventually the Senate largely on the strength of his experience as a middle manager at an Internet firm, it would seem to play to his strengths and reflect the libertarian strain of Montana voters who live in a place where a person’s privacy is highly valued.

And heck, he’s just a regular guy like you and me who enjoys using Snapchat. Please, go enjoy the photo of that spectacle. Please.

Unfortunately, Senator Daines is more interested in the private rights of Internet Service Providers to sell your private data than he is in protecting your rights, as he voted to repeal FCC rules that prevent ISPs from tracking and selling your private information. That bill, which subsequently passed the House, is likely to be signed soon by President Trump.

Writing for The Verge, Gigi Sohn, counselor to the former FCC chair, explains that the Daines vote means that ISPs can sell your personal information without your permission and undermines the nation’s strongest privacy laws:

The consequences of repeal are simple: ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Charter will be free to sell your personal information to the highest bidder without your permission — and no one will be able to protect you. The Federal Trade Commission has no legal authority to oversee ISP practices, and the bill under consideration ensures that the FCC cannot adopt “substantially similar” rules. So unless the bill fails in the House, the nation’s strongest privacy protections will not only be eliminated, they cannot be revived by the FCC.

These harms are not theoretical. The FCC put their rules in place because corporations were violating the privacy of consumers in surreptitious and creepy ways. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, ISPs including those that serve Montana, were selling data to marketers, hijacking searches, snooping through traffic and inserting ads, and more.

Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts explained before the vote just how much information will be made available about you:

The Senate action “would allow Comcast, Verizon, Charter, AT&T, and other broadband providers to take control away from consumers and relentlessly collect and sell their sensitive information without the consent of that family,” Markey said. That sensitive information includes health and financial information, and information about children, he said. ISPs want to “draw a map” of where families shop and go to school, and sell it to data brokers “or anyone else who wants to make a profit off you,” Markey said.

Unfortunately, Senator Daines seems to enjoy privacy about his votes, too. While KFBB did run a hot mess of a story about how the Senator uses Snapchat to reach voters, claiming millions watch him post awkward selfies, it seems the Montana press wanted to help the Senator keep his critical vote private, with not one story about the vote, which will affect hundreds of thousands of Montanans, making an appearance in the press.

Given Senator Daines’s professed concern about hackers and data privacy, perhaps someone in the Montana press should ask him to publicly explain why he just voted to increase the danger of the former and objectively reduce the latter. 

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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