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'Thanks to the swamp, the Senate and House voted to hand our private information over to the cable and telephone industry.' (Photo: Twitpic)

Dear Mr. President: Reject the D.C. Swamp and Veto the Broadband Privacy Repeal

President Trump will soon be asked to sign into law a bill that gives tremendous power to some of the most hated companies in America, the cable and telephone industry. If he cares about protecting our privacy from the very special interests he campaigned against, he’ll veto the bill.

In the last week, Congress rushed through and approved S.J. Res. 34, handing away our privacy protections as a favor to Comcast and other cable and telephone companies who want to sell records of our online activity. Tens of thousands of American called and wrote to their lawmakers, asking them to oppose the measure and protect our privacy; the President should stand with them.

How did we get here?  It’s simple: our privacy got lost in the D.C. swamp that the President promised to drain.

As soon as the cable and telephone companies learned that we, the customers, had a legal right to privacy around what we do online, they plotted to change the law. In their corporate offices near Capitol Hill they mapped out which politicians had taken their money and began to lobby them at fundraisers, dinners, in the halls of Congress, and in their home states.

Thanks to the swamp, the Senate and House voted to hand our private information over to the cable and telephone industry. There is no doubt that many of the lawmakers who voted for the repeal did so because of the campaign contributions by the telecom lobby.

And we know just how much they paid. In 2016 alone AT&T and its allies gave $8,114,278 and overall have donated $29,788,035 to the 265 senators and congressmen who voted to give away our privacy rights. They enlist their champions to engage in absurd arguments, including saying that repealing our privacy protections does not actually change anyone’s privacy rights. Or that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can protect our privacy rights even though AT&T successfully defeated the FTC in court just last year.

Americans across the political spectrum believe that the records of what they do on the Internet should not provide another opportunity for cable or telephone companies to make money off of their customers. And, so far, the law has agreed. But the industry sees enormous value in recording and selling everything we do online, such as information we search for related to our medical conditions, religious, and political activity, as well as the news sources we read, the websites we visit, the things we buy, and who we talk to. Once they begin collecting all of our activity, the government will no doubt start demanding that data from them, too.

The President promised to protect us from being ‘sold out’ to special interests by a distant and corrupt establishment in DC. He should make good on that promise by stopping politicians and corporate lobbyists from auctioning off our privacy without our permission and putting us even more at the mercy of our cable and telephone providers.

The President should veto this bill and tell Congress that he’s not going to let them sell our privacy for campaign contributions.

Peter Eckersley

Peter Eckersley is Technology Projects Director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Ernesto Falcon

Ernesto Falcon is Legislative Counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation with a primary focus on intellectual property and open Internet issues.

Kate Tummarello

Kate Tummarello works on surveillance issues for EFF's Activism Team. Previously, she covered technology policy in Washington, D.C. including writing about privacy, net neutrality, internet governance, and intellectual property.

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