Blackburn a star in Internet privacy debate

Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn got national attention for her leading role in the U.S. House’s approval of a bill widely characterized as repealing existing Internet privacy protections, including Friday some data-crunching on campaign finances by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican and vocal proponent of killing the rule, said this week that allowing the FTC and FCC to regulate different parts of the internet will “create confusion within the Internet ecosystem and end up harming consumers.”

Critics of that view say it’s hard to see how stronger protection of consumer privacy will hurt those consumers. In addition, ISPs “provide an essential service,” said Laura Moy, a visiting law professor at Georgetown University and expert on technology and the law — and many Americans have little or no choice about their providers. “Maybe the answer is to regulate everyone more closely.”

… We took a look at the contributions received by members of the House and Senate from the telecom industry.

Here’s what we found: On the House side, while there wasn’t a huge difference in overall funds received by lawmakers voting for or against the resolution, there was a gap in the Republican vote. GOP lawmakers who voted to quash the rule received an average of $138,000 from the industry over the course of their careers.

The 15 Republicans voting nay? They got just $77,000… Blackburn has received close to $564,000 from the telecom industry over the course of her House career.

As noted by the Nashville Scene, Late Show host Steven Colbert lampooned Blackburn a bit over the matter:

Colbert noted Blackburn’s leading role in this week’s congressional vote to undo internet privacy protections and clear the way for internet service providers to collect and sell customers’ browsing history — a move, he noted, that not a single American voter was clamoring for during last year’s presidential campaign.

“No one could think this is a good idea except for Republican representative, and realtor who isn’t telling you that this condo was built on an ancient Indian burial ground, Marsha Blackburn,” Colbert quipped. 

Following a clip of Blackburn arguing that consumer privacy would actually be enhanced by the change, he added, “I know what’s in her search history: ‘How to spout bullshit.'”

The Hill has more quotes from Colbert, including:

“Anybody here use the internet?… Might want to knock that off, because Congress has now voted to allow internet providers to sell your web-browsing history,” he said to boos. “Now might be a good time to clear your browser history.”

“This is what’s wrong with Washington, D.C. I guarantee you, there is not one person, not one voter of any political stripe anywhere in America, who asked for this,” he continued. “No one. No one in America stood up at a town hall said, ‘Sir, I demand you let somebody else make money off my shameful desires!’

Note: As for general reports on the bill’s passage, a couple of samples – both including Blackburn commentary – are the New York Times (HERE) and the Washington Post (HERE).

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