Congress' vote to roll back the FCC's internet privacy rules has provoked widespread condemnation.
As controversial as government regulation is by its very nature, the FCC rules, which were set to be implemented by the end of the year, were fairly popular. Internet service providers may be the only involved party strongly opposed to these privacy rules which would have prevented them from selling users' browsing data to third parties. It just so happens those very companies had generously donated to most of the members of Congress that voted for the bill that eliminated these rules. As internet users have scrambled to react, most coverage has overlooked our best hope for the restoration of privacy rights.
Not long after the bill made its way through Congress, the Minnesota legislature began fighting back. A budget amendment was recently introduced in the state Senate, prohibiting ISPs in Minnesota from collecting and selling users' private information without written consent. They are also prohibited from denying someone service based upon their lack of consent. The Senate approved the amendment in a 66-1 vote, and the bill ultimately passed. It looks as though the Minnesota House of Representatives is on board as well, based on a similar vote.
The best part is that this does not have to be a partisan issue. Minnesota's legislature is controlled by a Republican majority, just like Congress. The difference is that the legislature actually showed concern for privacy rights, while a member of Congress can apparently be bought by anyone who can afford to bankroll a re-election campaign. The issue here is not party, but a commitment to representing the public's interests.
This is also a victory for the American system of government. When the federal government fails to uphold its obligation to the public, there are levels of state and local government that can pick up the slack. It's comforting to see that not even rampant corruption can completely derail this country.
I'm glad that my home state is representing my interests. It's immensely satisfying to see my fellow Minnesotans, stereotypically reserved and accommodating folk, willing to be a thorn in Congress' side. However, there are still 49 other states to consider. Hopefully, other state legislatures are willing to send Congress a message that their citizens come before the interests of lobbyists.
No one, of any political persuasion, wants their privacy compromised. When America is at one of the most divided moments in its history, perhaps this can be a unifying factor. As the internet becomes more central to modern life, the fight for privacy will only become more crucial.