You can’t buy Congress’ web history — stop trying

Russell Brandom at The Verge:

To be clear, you can’t do this. Just because carriers are allowed to market against data doesn’t mean they’re allowed to sell individual web histories. The campaigns seem well-intentioned, but that’s just not how it works.

In fact, what the campaigns describe would be illegal no matter what the FCC does. The Telecommunications Act explicitly prohibits the sharing of “individually identifiable” customer information except under very specific circumstances. It’s much more permissive when it comes to “aggregate” customer information, which is where things get squishier and the FCC rules become more important. We could argue all day about whether a targeted ad is individually identifiable or not, but if you’re paying Verizon to find out which sites Paul Ryan visited last month, that’s pretty clearly individual information, and pretty clearly illegal to sell. If you want to get really clever, the Wiretap Act also makes it illegal to divulge the contents of electronic communications without the parties’ consent, which arguably includes browsing history.

Also, if violating privacy is wrong for some, it’s wrong for everyone. Taylor Hatmaker at TechCrunch:

If you care about privacy, like really believe in it, throwing your ideals out the window for a half-baked revenge plot isn’t a very good look. And like I said, I like revenge just fine. But it’s a dish best served cold, and anyone who gives a shit about privacy is still worked up from yesterday’s nonsense. And, by the way, the GoFundMe wants to target not only the politicians and the telecom fat cats, but also their families (check the fine print). Not cool.