Broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon lobbied hard to get rid of new federal regulations that would have put legal limits on surveillance of their customers.
But now that they've been lambasted in the press, the companies are singing a different tune and saying that, gosh, they would never actually follow their customers around the internet, collecting data that they then sell to marketers and others. They opposed the new Federal Communications Commission rules just because they were "overreaching," the companies insist.
This is like saying a stop sign is unnecessary because you had planned to stop at that corner anyway, but who's counting?
Take Comcast. Though it helped put the knife in the FCC's privacy rules, it now says it has no intention of selling customers' web browsing histories. In a blog posting, Gerard Lewis, Comcast's senior privacy officer, said the company has never sold web browsing histories and doesn't plan to start, even if it's legal to do so.
"Comcast has committed to privacy principles that are consistent with the FTC’s privacy regime which has applied to all entities in the Internet ecosystem for over 20 years and which continues to apply to internet edge companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon," Lewis wrote. "We believe this commitment is legally enforceable in multiple ways, including by state attorneys general."
No, not us
No, no, we wouldn't do that either, Verizon and AT&T were quick to insist.
"Let’s set the record straight. Verizon does not sell the personal web browsing history of our customers. We don’t do it and that’s the bottom line," Verizon said in a statement, failing to mention that it has been known to give supercookies to its mobile users in order to make it easier for advertisers to track them.
AT&T said that "some folks are ignoring the facts" when they say that Congress' jettisoning of the privacy rules eliminated consumer privacy protections. The fact, of course, is that Congress did indeed block the pending imposition of the privacy rules and went even further with a resolution that blocks any similar law or regulation from taking effect anytime in the future.
The Obama-era regulations were "off-course," AT&T said. That's similar to "overreaching," apparently.
Just to make sure Congress understood how unnecessary and "overreaching" those Obama-era rules were, the big broadband providers paid an average of $70,779 per Senator in campaign contributions and $26,129 per House member according to followthemoney.org.
However, Comcast did join with other ISPs to urge the overturning of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) privacy rules, which Lewis describes as "overreaching." He says much of the discussion about the Congressional move has been misleading.
The Congressional sell-out drew a sharp rebuke from consumer advocates.
"The vote in Congress to repeal the broadband privacy rules, allowing internet service providers to spy on their customers and sell their data without consent, is a terrible setback for the American public," said Susan Grant of the Consumer Federation of America. "It does provide an opportunity for President Trump, however. He can show that he is on the side of the people by vetoing this measure."
Trump, however, is almost certain to sign the measure, which he has long supported.