Without fanfare or cameras, President Donald Trump on Monday quietly signed away Americans' right to internet privacy, inking a deal that will allow internet companies to track and sell private information without user consent.
Though the White House issued a statement of support after the bill was passed by Republicans in the House and Senate, advocacy organizations and Democratic lawmakers called on Trump to veto the measure, holding out hope that the faux-populist president (and vocal critic of surveillance) would be swayed by its unpopularity as it sells out individuals' right to privacy to the highest bidder.
"It's deeply ironic that President Trump is expressing outrage about alleged violations of his own privacy while signing legislation that will dramatically expand government surveillance of all Americans."
—Evan Greer, Fight for the Future"Donald Trump said he was going to drain the swamp, but it didn't take long for the swamp to drain him," said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future in a press statement after Trump's quiet signing was reported.
"The only people in the United States who want less internet privacy are CEOs and lobbyists for giant telecom companies who want to rake in money by spying on all of us and selling the private details of our lives to marketing companies," Greer continued.
"It's deeply ironic," she added, "that President Trump is expressing outrage about alleged violations of his own privacy while signing legislation that will dramatically expand government surveillance of all Americans."
Michael Copps, former FCC Commissioner and special adviser to pro-democracy group Common Cause, similarly lamented after the bill's signing: "Privacy goes the way of populism as Trump rolls over again for big business."
"Despite a campaign filled with rhetoric about the plight of forgotten Americans, Trump has once again come down on the side of corporate profiteering at the expense of Americans who don't sit on corporate boards and can't afford a $200,000 membership at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach," Copps added. "Trump has flip-flipped on his own campaign promises and handed over Americans' right to privacy to those with the deepest pockets."
Formally, the law repeals Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations enacted by the Obama administration that forbade internet service providers (ISPs), such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, from selling user data to third-party companies. This includes information like one's search history—information about health, finances, and other private matters—as well as their location and the applications they use.
What's more, because it came in the form of a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, the legislation prevents the FCC from putting any similar rules in place in the future.
With this overreach now established as the law of the land, open internet advocates like Fight for the Future are encouraging consumers to protect themselves and their data. Over the weekend, the organization launched #GetSafe, a simple step-by-step guide that helps users beef up their digital security.
Similarly, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has also outlined clear technical measures one can take to protect their privacy from ISPs, such as signing up for a Virtual Private Network (VPN), or using a secure browser extension—like https—when possible. Another tactic reported by Ars Technica on Monday involves users flooding their browsing history with so-called "data pollution" which essentially surrounds sensitive information with "noise."