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Congress’ decision to gut broadband privacy protections is sparking some creative ways to fight back.
On Tuesday, House Republicans voted to eliminate the Federal Communications Commission’s privacy rules for broadband internet providers, which will allow companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon to collect and sell customers’ private information, including Social Security numbers, web browsing histories, the contents of emails and messages, health and financial data, and other personal information. The Senate already passed the measure, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law.
Pro-privacy journalists are calling out the 256 lawmakers who voted for the resolution—particularly the resolution’s lead champion, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who received at least $693,000 in campaign contributions from the internet industry. And a Reddit user created a crowdfunding site to buy the web browsing histories of members of Congress. But one protester is making the issue personal.
Petter Rudwall, a 31-year-old creative director at an advertising agency in Stockholm, Sweden, has put his entire browsing history up for sale on eBay in protest of the American anti-privacy actions.
Here’s how he described the product:
During my years as an extensive internet user (hey, I surf every day) I’ve generated a massive collection of web pages, safely stored in my browser history. It’s now time to sell this, before anyone else does it. The fact that the congress has passed a resolution on this triggered my ”you’ll never catch me alive”—nerve and voila!—an opportunity to buy a unique collection of internet unfolded. My browser history consists of funny, dumb, mildy interesting, smart, important and semi-NSFW pages that together will keep you entertained a long time. This one is perfect for the person who feel stuck in their present internet habit, for people who always browse the same pages every day. #inspo, you know.
In an email to the Daily Dot, Rudwall explained why he found it necessary to protest Congress’ actions.
“It’s so wrong that people’s privacy is up for sale,” Rudwall said. “Who are the politicians to decide this? We need to protect our privacy!”
While it may seem odd that a Swede is protesting U.S. legislation that directly affects Americans, Rudwall sees this as a global issue and cites Sweden’s history of support for privacy and internet freedom. Sweden is the birthplace of the pro-internet freedom Pirate Party, after all.
“U.S. politics tend to influence the rest of the world, and we Swedes are very concerned about our freedom of speech online,” Rudwall said. “We have a history of caring for net neutrality, [and] Peter Sunde, one of the founders behind the Pirate Bay, is a role model for this. We need to react!”
At the time of publication, Rudwall’s browser history has received zero bids—although you could “buy it now” for $99. (Rudwall says he “decided the price semi-randomly; however, I could use the money to spend on a new, smooth, mouse to facilitate my next internet adventure.”) But for issues like this, it’s the message that counts.
Andrew Couts is the former editor of Layer 8, a section dedicated to the intersection of the Internet and the state—and the gaps in between. Prior to the Daily Dot, Couts served as features editor and features writer for Digital Trends, associate editor of TheWeek.com, and associate editor at Maxim magazine. When he’s not working, Couts can be found hiking with his German shepherds or blasting around on motorcycles.