Trump’s new Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, recently co-authored what is either an intentionally or naively deceptive op-ed in The Washington Post.
Pai suggested that when Republicans in the House and Senate – without a single Democratic vote in either body – voted to legalize your Internet Service Provider – your ISP – to sell your personal (and you-thought-private) browsing information and the content of your emails and video-viewing to anybody they choose, they were actually working to “protect” your privacy. He knew this, he wrote, because critics of the GOP policy “don’t understand how advertising works.”
That claim is unadulterated BS.
He starts out saying that an ISP would never sell your private browsing\emailing\viewing history because it “would violate ISP’s privacy promises.” True enough, at this moment – because those privacy policies reflect the law that banned such behavior.
But anybody who’s ever bothered to read online Terms Of Service knows that such policies can, quite literally, be changed in less than a day, to accommodate new legal opportunities. To think they won’t is either naïve or profoundly disingenuous.
At the core of this debate is a simple concept that Pai’s op-ed goes out of its way to obfuscate. It’s the question of whether the internet and access to it should be a “public” space (i.e. “part of the commons”) with a We The People government-regulated expectation of privacy, or a hypermonetized private/corporate/billionaire-regulated space where you are left to the tender mercies of giant corporations and their owners/managers.
Think of it like your phone company.
There was a time, in the early days of telephones, when there was very little privacy to a phone call. “Agnes” at the phone company (operators in the 1920s and ‘30s were nearly always women) could, as she plugged your line to your neighbor’s line to establish a connection, listen in to your conversation (a common theme in old movies). Party lines were notoriously insecure.
So, in 1934, Congress updated the laws regulating radio to include telephony, creating the FCC, and wrote Title II of the FCC regulations, which basically says that the phone system is a public utility (necessary for public safety, the public good, etc.), and that therefore the phone company couldn’t listen in to your conversations.