Various platforms on the Internet already catalogue more information about you than you’d care to know. Don’t believe it? Do three individual Google searches for wedding rings. You’ll quickly see a fluid change in the advertising cropping up on your social media, search engines, and other frequented sites- a fluid change that matches your most recent search. Internet and app providers want to serve you the best possible experience every time you step foot into the virtual web, and in so doing, shake the wallet out of your pocket as quickly as they’re able. This evening, the American House of Representatives voted to block online privacy regulations that were introduced in the final days of President Obama’s administration. This means, ultimately, that your browsing history is now available to the highest bidder.
A person’s browsing history offers a more vivid picture of their personality, habits, and character traits than any photograph or anecdote. As more and more time is spent doing online shopping, research, and banking by the average consumer, more and more valuable data is being collected by that browsing history. Your browsing history almost certainly knows what your favorite TV shows are, what bank you use, what online websites you shop from, where you went to school, and so on. If you’ve Googled it, viewed it, or made a user account for it, your browser history knows that. And now? So will the highest bidder.
Internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon have been chomping at the bit to be able to sell this information to advertisers. The previous government administration sought to blockade that effort at the last- but the current administration has other priorities. The Obama administration’s regulation would have forced Internet providers to get permission to sell their users’ browsing histories. With that regulation now swept off the table? All bets are off, and your browsing history is up for grabs.
In a perfect world, having your browsing history sold is actually not a terrible thing. Advertisers want to know you better simply so that they can have a better chance of selling the right product the right way to you. But, as you don’t need to be told, this isn’t a perfect world. This is a world riddled with physical and virtual espionage, corrupt governments, scams, and scandals. This is a world where being an average, well-meaning person with nothing to hide is no longer enough to keep your information from being splayed like roadkill all over the strategy boards of advertising companies- and potentially worse.
Your browsing history is a reflection of your virtual self- your likes, dislikes, financial information, and more. With the newest blotch from the Trump administration’s pen, that virtual self is up on the auction block. The American right to privacy is rapidly diminishing under the weight of advertising demands, company interests, and capitalistic priorities. At least, for now, we still have freedom of speech.