Entering his fourth month as the Commander-in-chief, President Trump has signed off on a series of actions deemed controversial by the mainstream media. However, his latest decision could turn out to be the most contentious yet. On Monday, the President signed a congressional resolution that effectively overturned internet privacy protections for millions of internet users.
The consumer protection proposal was initially forwarded by the Federal Communications Commission during the Obama administration. Addressing concerns by private citizens, the FCC issued a mandate stating that internet providers had to receive permission before they could sell their members’ internet behavioral data to outside companies. Essentially, the FCC was apply the same protections afforded in other industries towards internet privacy guidelines.
Of course, the Trump administration maintains a difference of opinion. For them, the central issue is not internet privacy, but rather, a burdensome regulatory environment that stymies business and commerce. Under the proposed internet privacy law, only internet providers would be affected. Internet companies, on the other hand, are exempt. That means Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) could datamine the snot out of its user base and sell that information to outside parties because it is not an internet provider.
According to President Trump, that’s a gross contradiction of terms. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer affirmed that moving ahead with internet privacy laws would artificially create an imbalanced regulatory environment. Some companies like Twitter would benefit, while broadband providers like AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) would be at a disadvantage.
From a business perspective, President Trump’s animus towards an increased regulatory environment is quite understandable. He wants free and unencumbered trade just like an red-blooded capitalist. The problem is that the repeal of the internet privacy protections catalyzes competitive imbalances in other industries.
The prime example is the cybersecurity industry, particularly for companies that provide internet security for the public retail market. What is the point, really, of protecting a client when you cannot assure them of their privacy? Yes, outside digital threats are problems that these specialists can address. However, one of the biggest threats is coming from inside the house.
It’s not just that internet providers can sell your information to advertisers and marketers. Your email patterns — with whom you communicate, and for how often — can all be traced, analyzed, and profiled, ready to be sold to the highest bidder. Internet users — basically, anyone with a pulse — will now have to depend on big business to police themselves.
That’s just not going to happen. And this open-ended dilemma points to a real vulnerability in how President Trump and his administration have handled certain issues. It’s fine and dandy to repeal legislation or proposals with which you disagree; however, it’s the replacement part that separates great leaders from the merely good.
Most Americans — whether they voted for President Trump or not — likely would have internet privacy than not. Even if your usage is innocuous, you’d still like to keep things in the family. After all, most people close the doors when they use restroom facilities. The same principle applies for internet privacy.
But in this latest decision, only the regulatory environment was addressed. What about the average, everyday American? Why should their privacy be impugned so that big business can benefit? Such questions, if left unsatisfactorily answered, could come back to haunt the administration.
I hope for the sake of the conservative movement that a positive solution for internet privacy is found. Consumers should have a choice as to whether or not their usage patterns are sold out to alien interests. We’ve already had to deal with plenty of “Big Brother” intrusions. The whole point of electing President Trump was to scale back these unwanted advances.