Tuesday, April 25, 2017

15 House Republicans Join The Democrats To Stand Up Against Encroachments By Big Brother


Do you remember what these 15 congresscritters have in common?
Justin Amash (MI)
Mo Brooks (AL)
Mike Coffman (CO)
Warren Davidson (OH)
Jimmy Duncan (TN)
John Faso (NY)
Garret Graves (LA)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA)
Walter Jones (NC)
Tom McClintock (CA)
Dave Reichert (WA)
Mark Sanford (SC)
Elise Stefanik (NY)
Kevin Yoder (KS)
Lee Zeldin (NY)
Yes, they are all Republicans. Some are crazy right-wing lunatics from the Freedom Caucus like Mo Brooks and Warren Davidson; some are libertarians like Walter Jones, Jimmy Duncan and Justin Amash; some are relatively mainstream conservatives like John Faso snd Jaime Herrera Beutler. Because of the nature of their districts, some are in precariously vulnerable positions for reelection, like Mike Coffman, and some are set-for-life, like Garret Graves. But all 15 crossed the aisle on March 28 of thise year to vote with every single Democrat against Jeff Flake's Joint Resolution-- which has since been signed into law by Trump-- to allow Internet providers to sell our personal online data to the highest bidders without our permission and, in fact, without even informing us.

That was insane for the Republicans-- regardless of how many of them took massive bribes from the internet providers-- to do. The bill passed narrowly, 215-205 and it makes every Republican, other than those 15, vulnerable on an issue millions American voters care very much about regardless of partisan politics.

Matt Coffay is a leader of Our Revolution in western North Carolina. He's running for Congress, taking on Freedom Caucus chieftain Mark Meadows, one of the Republicans who voted to allow Internet providers to sell our personal information to whoever wants to buy it. Matt disagrees with that vote. This morning he told us, "My position on internet privacy is much like that of Senator Bernie Sanders: your internet history belongs to you, and not to corporations. This isn't complicated, or radical. How can Republicans in Congress claim that they want government to stay out of people's lives, and then vote for a bill that allows people's private browsing data to be sold to the highest corporate bidder? This bill is a violation of our right to privacy, plain and simple."

David Gill is the progressive candidate for the IL-13 seat currently held by knee-jerk Republican Rodney Davis, who, of course, backed giving the Internet providers the green light to sell our personal information. David wasn't amused by his decision. "This vote represents yet another betrayal of his constituents by Rodney Davis: he took $49,000 from the telecom industry, and then he voted to allow those companies to sell your web browsing history to marketers and other third parties-- so much for privacy! I support undoing Citizens United & reforming campaign finance laws. When we take those steps, we'll have representatives who stand up for their constituents, rather than reps who sell out their constituents."

Three years before Flake wrote his Joint Resolution, Michael Gurnow wrote The Ed Snowden Affair, a book that tackles many of the issues the GOP legislation starkly brings up for Americans. Even back then, he wrote that "data brokers take their information, organize it into precise little profiles, and offer it to anyone with an open checkbook."
This includes the obvious customers, U.S. government and corporations, but they have other steadfast clients. Many “people locator” websites purchase data mining profiles and resell them to the general public. For a nominal fee, anyone can access a person’s birthday, place of birth, current and past residences, family relations, social security and phone number, educational background, email address, place of current and former employment, and medical, property and court records. Medical insurance firms are curious whether a potential client prints Internet coupons for over the counter headache medicine and pays in cash to avoid a rate-hiking paper trail. Employment agencies want to know an applicant’s hobbies and proclivities without having to ask. Loan companies are interested in a candidate’s choice of recreational locales, be it a casino, truck rally or library. Once this data is combined with receipts from many of the major corporations, buying habits are then merged with wants and desires. The result is a very concise, detailed picture of an individual’s pos- sessions, activities and goals. This is then compared to established buying patterns. The end result is daunting. The owner of an analyzed profile knows who a person was, is, and is going to be. Corporations refer to this as market research. Privacy advocates consider the process an infringement upon the Fourth Amendment and argue third-party cookie usage violates the last sanctuary of privacy, one’s thoughts. Orwell’s prophecy is modestly conservative by 21st-century standards. The main character in Nineteen Eighty-Four believes, “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.”

The surveillance debate has intensified since June 5 and lent new perspectives upon the concept of the safety technol- ogy can provide. The underlying political issue is who has the right to particular varieties of information.

The public believes there are two types of conversations, public and private. The intelligence community doesn’t agree. In the Internet Age, a person can “Like” the activity of fishing enough to let the world know by making it public knowledge on one’s Facebook profile. The individual can also choose to obtain a vanity Facebook URL by confidentially submitting one’s telephone number to the social networking site. The phone number is used for authorization purposes to verify the request is coming from the Facebook account holder. Though it is not placed online, the number is nonetheless (questionably) stored on the company’s servers. David Omand, former head of GCHQ, has no problem with collecting the publicly-known fact Bob likes fishing along with his cell number via Facebook’s FISC order permitting the U.S. government access to the information. For the watchers, there is no line dividing what an individual puts on the Internet and what people have privately entrusted to another party, be it a website, bank, doctor or telephone company.

Government spies also scoff at the notion of intellectual property rights. Bought-and-sold politicians agree. If something is publicly or privately posted online, it automatically becomes the property of the website’s owner. (This is also why most businesses permit and encourage employees to use their company-issued phones and email accounts for personal communications-- the firms have legal license to review an employee’s private network and communications, because they own the devices and programs and therefore the data on them.) It is an absurd proposition analogous to stating an individual surrenders rightful ownership of a vehicle to a bank when it is parked on property whose tenant has yet to pay the mortgage in full. This policy refuses to acknowledge the resources and labor provided by the Facebook account holder, i.e., the computer used to access the social networking site, time it took to create a profile and mental ingenuity in deciding how and what to say about oneself. It is understood that the website has issued the venue which, in turn, makes the information available worldwide but the skewed exchange undermines the statement that profiles are “free.” No profit sharing is offered the user. Without account holders, social networking sites would be empty voids on lonely servers and not multinational corporate affairs.

In the surveillance communities’ opinion, everything is public domain and no one has the right to ask “Do you mind?” to someone eavesdropping on a conversation. Their argument is that if a person doesn’t want what is being said to be known (by whomever), the individual best not speak at all. In the cloak-and-dagger world of data mining, the person having a discussion cannot reasonably expect privacy, because the individual is voicing one’s thoughts, period. It does not matter whether they are spoken in confidence and directed to a particular person, much like an email is addressed “To: Bob” and not “To: Bob; Bcc: The NSA.” If the speaker is naïve enough to say something at a volume where a microphone can detect it, it is de facto public knowledge. Whereas government surveillance only exchanges the recorded conversation with its own kind, corporate surveillance broadcasts the discussion to anyone who is willing to pay to hear it. In the surveillance world, the only guarantee of privacy is dead silence.

The U.S. government knows the difference but deliberately ignores it. It does not want a distinction to be made, because it would restrict its power and the power of those who fund political campaigns: defense contractors, telecoms, Internet companies, corporate retailers, fast food enterprises and mul- timillion-dollar data mining firms. The last thing the U.S. government or private business wants is account holders to have control over their own information.

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