March 27, 2017 | By Dave Maass

Republicans in Congress Are Disregarding Their Own Privacy Policies

Visit Sen. Jeff Flake’s official website, scroll to the bottom, click “Privacy Policy,” and you’ll find a page where the junior senator from Arizona makes this fine promise:

I am committed to protecting the personal privacy of individuals who use the Internet, including website visitors like you.

Take ActionCall your Congressmember now to save online privacy!

He goes onto say that “your privacy is important to me” and that you should “rest assured” that your data is safe with him.

And yet—last week Sen. Flake rushed a resolution through the Senate to repeal landmark privacy protections enacted by the Federal Communications Commission. The legislation would also bar the FCC from ever again acting to protect users’ data from internet providers.

Under the repeal, the companies that provide your broadband service—be it Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, AT&T, or Verizon—will be able to engage in all sorts of underhanded ways to monetize your personal information. They’ll be allowed to collect your browsing history, hijack your search results, insert unwanted advertisements, and sell your data to marketers. In other words, if this repeal passes, no user should rest assured again.

Sen. Flake isn’t the only senator to act in disregard of their stated commitments to privacy. Forty-nine other Republicans joined him in the vote:

Many of these senators make similar statements in their privacy policies. For example, Sens. John Thune, Dean Heller, and Lamar Alexander’s Privacy Policies start: 

Protecting the personal privacy of individuals who use the Internet is a priority, and we appreciate the opportunity to describe to you the policies we have put in place to safeguard the privacy of individuals who visit our Web site.

Sen. John Cornyn’s Privacy Policy begins:

Senator John Cornyn respects your right to privacy and is committed to protecting the privacy and security of visitors to cornyn.senate.gov, and those who correspond with our offices via email.

Sen. John Boozman’s says: 

Your privacy concerns are very important, so please know that we have safeguards in place to protect the privacy of visitors to my site.

Here’s the thing: if you’re a U.S. lawmaker, protecting privacy doesn’t just mean avoiding collecting their data when they visit your website. It means standing up for users’ rights every day on Capitol Hill—the exact opposite of which is to roll back the strong privacy protections already on the books.

Now the issue is before House of Representatives, which could vote on the resolution as early as Tuesday.  It’s important you call your lawmaker today to demand they vote down the repeal of the FCC privacy rules.

Like their Senate colleagues, House Republicans also claim to respect user privacy. Speaker Paul Ryan’s Campaign site says that he knows “your right to privacy online is important.” Reps. Trent Franks, Tom McClintock, Mimi Walters, and many others use this boilerplate language:

We respect the privacy of our visitors and all those who come in contact with our office—be it in-person, through our Web site, or by mail, phone, or email. We therefore try to collect only such personal information as is needed to provide the information, service, or assistance that you request.

Is this just lip service? To truly respect the privacy of their constituents, these members need to not only limit what they collect but actively resist the telecommunication lobby’s play to collect and exploit our data. Otherwise, when you visit their sites, your internet provider will know it and be able to sell that information.

Don’t let your member of Congress get away with a personal data giveaway. Call them today and demand they vote down the repeal of the FCC’s privacy regulations.

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