[bestbits] To Serve AT&T and Comcast, Congressional GOP Votes to Destroy Online Privacy

willi uebelherr willi.uebelherr at riseup.net
Thu Mar 30 21:08:34 EDT 2017

To Serve AT&T and Comcast, Congressional GOP Votes to Destroy Online Privacy

Dear friends,

as an extension to the email from Richard Hill "Snoops may soon be able 
to buy your browsing history. Thank the US Congress" in the ISOC policy 
list i distribute this email from Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept blog.

So we have now a great diversity in this theme with a clear common 
result of analysis.

many greetings, willi
Asuncion, Paraguay

-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: To Serve AT&T and Comcast, Congressional GOP Votes to Destroy 
Online Privacy
Date: 	Wed, 29 Mar 2017 14:53:28 +0000
From: 	Glenn Greenwald <>

To Serve AT&T and Comcast, Congressional GOP Votes to Destroy Online Privacy

_Clarifying events_ in politics are often healthy even when they produce 
awful outcomes. Such is the case with yesterday’s vote 
by House Republicans to free internet service providers (ISPs) – 
primarily AT&T, Comcast and Verizon – from the Obama-era FCC regulations 
barring them from storing and selling their users’ browsing histories 
without their consent. The vote followed an identical one last week 
in the Senate exclusively along party lines 

It’s hard to overstate what a blow to individual privacy this is. Unlike 
Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Google – which can track and 
sell only those activities of yours which you engage in while using 
their specific service – ISPs can track everything you do online. “These 
companies carry all of your Internet traffic and can examine each packet 
in detail to build up a profile on you,” explained 
two experts from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Worse, it is not 
particularly difficult to avoid using specific services (such as 
Facebook) that are known to undermine privacy, but consumers often have 
very few choices for ISPs; it’s a virtual monopoly.

It’s hardly rare for the U.S. Congress to enact measures gutting online 
privacy: indeed, the last two decades have ushered in a legislative 
scheme that implements a virtually ubiquitous Surveillance State 
composed of both public intelligence and military agencies along with 
their private-sector “partners.” Members of Congress voting for these 
pro-surveillance measures invariably offer the pretext that they are 
acting for the benefit of American citizens – whose privacy they are 
gutting – by Keeping Them Safe™.

But what distinguishes this latest vote is that this pretext is 
unavailable. Nobody can claim with a straight face that allowing AT&T 
and Comcast to sell their users’ browser histories has any relationship 
to national security. Indeed, there’s no minimally persuasive rationale 
that can be concocted for this vote. It manifestly has only one purpose: 
maximizing the commercial interests of these telecom giants at the 
expense of ordinary citizens. It’s so blatant here that it cannot even 
be disguised.

That’s why, despite its devastating harm for individual privacy, there 
is a beneficial aspect to this episode. It illustrates – for those who 
haven’t yet realized it – who actually dominates Congress and owns its 
members: the corporate donor class.

There is literally no constituency in favor of this bill other than 
these telecom giants. It’d be surprising if even a single voter who cast 
their ballot for Trump or a GOP Congress even thought about, let alone 
favored, rescission of privacy-protecting rules for ISPs. So blatant is 
the corporate-donor servitude here that there’s no pretext even 
available for pretending this benefits ordinary citizens. It’s a bill 
written exclusively by and for a small number of corporate giants 
exclusively for their commercial benefit at the expense of everyone else.

Right-wing outlets like Breitbart tried hard to sell the bill to their 
But the only rationale they could provide was that it’s intended to 
“undo duplicitous regulation around consumer privacy,” which, they 
suggested, was unfair to telecoms that faced harsher regulations than 
social media companies. To justify this, Breitbart quoted a GOP 
Congresswoman, Martha Blackburn, as claiming that the regulation is 
“unnecessary and just another example of big government overreach.” When 
the Senate GOP voted last week to undo the restriction, Texas Sen. John 
Cornyn invoked the right-wing cliché 
that it “hurt job creators and stifle economic growth.”

But the inane idea that individuals should lose all online privacy 
protections in the name of regulatory consistency or maximizing 
corporate profits is something that is almost impossible to sell even to 
the most loyal ideologues. As Matt Stoller noted 
<https://twitter.com/matthewstoller/status/847055739315245056>, there 
was “lots of anger in the comments section of Breitbart against the GOP 
for revoking the Obama privacy regs for ISPs.”

     Lots of "This is one of very few Obama-era regulations that should
     have stayed…." Everyone hates Comcast. pic.twitter.com/IODmQAkrnk

     — Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) March 29, 2017

Stoller added that the resentment among even Breitbart readers over the 
vote was based on a relatively sophisticated understanding that the GOP 
Congress was subordinating the privacy rights of individuals to the 
corporate profits of Comcast 
<https://twitter.com/matthewstoller/status/847057465606881281>, along 
with reinforcing monopoly power 
<https://twitter.com/matthewstoller/status/847058330505891840> for what 
are really public utilities; as Stoller put it 
<https://twitter.com/matthewstoller/status/847059028387790848>: “it’s 
fascinating, when the political debates are about the use of 
concentrated business power, the debates are no longer as partisan.”

_This recognition_ – of who owns and controls Congress – is absolutely 
fundamental to understanding any U.S. political issue. And it does – or 
at least should – transcend both partisan and ideological allegiance 
because it prevails in both parties.

I still recall very vividly when I attended the 2008 Democratic National 
Convention in Denver. It was just months after the Democratic Congress 
(with ample help from the Bush White House and GOP members) spearheaded 
a truly corrupt bill to vest the telecom industry with retroactive 
for having broken the law in allowing the NSA to access their American 
customers’ calls and records without the warrants required by law (that 
was the 2008 bill which Obama, when seeking the Democratic nomination, 
vowed to filibuster, only to then flagrantly violate his promise 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/02/us/politics/02fisa.html> by voting 
against a filibuster and for the bill itself once he had the nomination 


The sole beneficiaries of that bill were AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and the 
other telecom giants who faced serious civil and even criminal liability 
for this lawbreaking. The main forces ensuring its passage were the Bush 
White House and the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Intelligence 
Committee, Jay Rockefeller, whose campaign coffers enjoyed a massive 
surge <https://www.wired.com/2007/10/dem-pushing-spy/> of telecom 
donations immediately before he championed their cause.

The first thing one noticed upon arriving on the DNC grounds was the 
AT&T logo everywhere: they were a major sponsor of the convention, with 
everything from huge signs to tote bags for the delegates carrying their 

The apex of this flagrant corruption was when AT&T threw a lavish party 
<http://www.salon.com/2008/08/25/blue_dogs/> for the party centrists who 
helped pass the bill – entitled “AT&T thanks the Blue Dogs” – which both 
Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman and I attended 
<https://www.democracynow.org/2008/8/25/at_t_throws_party_to_support> in 
the totally futile attempt to interview the hordes of Democratic 
lobbyists, delegates and corporate donors who toasted one another:

Like most people, I had known on a rational level for quite some time 
that corporate donors dictate what happens in Congress – that they 
literally write the laws – regardless of the outcome of elections. But 
watching that stream of corporate and political power slink in to that 
venue and congregate together in such blatant corruption, and the 
secrecy surrounding it, really underscored the reality of this all on a 
visceral level. That’s the permanent power faction of Washington and 
they try hard, with great success, to make themselves impenetrable to 
outside influences – such as democracy, transparency, and ordinary citizens.

Perhaps this latest episode of pure corporate servitude – this time 
delivered by the Congressional GOP, at the expense of individual 
privacy, with virtually unanimous Democratic opposition – will have a 
similar effect on others, including those who worked to elect this 
Republican Congress.

This, of course, is the “swamp” that Trump vowed to “drain,” the oozing 
corruption of both parties that he endlessly denounced (just as Obama 
did before him in 2008). If Trump signs this bill, as expected, perhaps 
it will open more eyes about how Washington really works, who really 
controls it, for whose benefit it functions, and the serious difficulty 
of changing it even when you elect politicians who swear over and over 
that they oppose it all.

Top photo: An AT&T store on 5th Avenue in New York on Oct. 23, 2016.

The post To Serve AT&T and Comcast, Congressional GOP Votes to Destroy 
Online Privacy 
appeared first on The Intercept <https://theintercept.com>.

More information about the Bestbits mailing list