Billboards began appearing around the U.S. this week that showed how much funding members of Congress who voted to allow ISPs to sell customer’s personal data without permission received from telecommunication companies. Anti-censorship and digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future organized the crowd-funded publicity campaign, and announced its launch on Wednesday.
Congress repealed laws requiring ISPs to obtain explicit permission from customers to sell their search and browsing history and location data in March.
The crowdfunding page for the billboards, which refers to the Congressional representatives as “corrupt politicians” shows the campaign just short of its goal of $25,000. In contrast, according to the billboards, representatives Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) received $497,499 from telecoms, Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) received $345,250. Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL) is also singled out, though his work telephone number is not included on the billboard, nor is an allegation of funds received. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is also identified by a billboard as having supported the repeal.
“Congress voting to gut internet privacy was one of the most blatant displays of corruption in recent history,” Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future said in a statement. “They might think that they’ve gotten away with it, but they’re wrong. These billboards are just the latest example of the growing public backlash to these attacks on our internet freedom and privacy.”
“Members of Congress who help monopolies get richer while undermining our online privacy and attacking net neutrality will soon see that they can’t hide from the public on these issues,” she added, “Everyone who drives by one of these billboards will know exactly how much money these lawmakers took in exchange for selling off their basic right to use the web safely, and handing their most personal information to advertisers.”
Fight for the Future advocated for the passage of net neutrality rules during the Obama administration, starting the website BattlefortheNet.com and playing a leadership role in the “Internet Slowdown” protest, which over 40,000 websites participated in, including Kickstarter, Etsy, Tumblr, and Netflix.
Congress appears unlikley to legislate changes to the FCC-imposed net neutrality rules, but will leave the matter to the FCC, now under Chairman Ajit Pai, who has expressed a desire for Congress to make changes by writing new or revised laws.