As expected, The US House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to overturn a ruling that would have forced Internet service providers to obtain consent before selling your web browsing history to third parties for the purpose of targeted advertising. The bill is now destined for President Trump’s desk where the White House has already said he strongly supports repealing the FCC rules.
Now one Tennessee mobile software engineer and self proclaimed privacy activist wants to turn the tables on legislators, starting a GoFundMe campaign to buy their browsing histories from ISPs and expose them for everyone to see. Starting with a modest goal of just $10,000, the campaign had already raised almost $150,000. But while you may be rooting for this attempt at revenge, the reality is that you can’t just legally buy somebody's search history by name, and you should think twice before throwing your money at this.
As The Verge and TechCrunch are pointing out, you can’t buy targeted, de-anonymized internet data on individual users. Advertisers can buy web user data, but that’s generally done in aggregate, and despite the House's vote there are still prevailing privacy laws, contract law and other individual protections that prevent the scenario proposed by the GoFundMe campaign from being plausible.
In a statement to TechCrunch, GoFundMe said the campaign doesn’t violate their terms of service, and that they are working directly with campaign organizer Adam McElhaney to ensure the funds are managed appropriately. Despite this there’s still no mention of where the funds will go in the likely scenario that the proposed goal of “purchasing the Internet histories of all legislators, congressmen, executives, and their families and make them easily searchable” isn’t successful.