Bad Take: Rep. Sensenbrenner's Response Over Internet Privacy Concerns: 'Nobody's Got To Use The Internet'

from the and-nobody's-got-to-vote-for-you-either dept

As we’ve explained, with Congress voting (and the President signing) a bill to kill off the FCC’s broadband privacy rules, things are not necessarily as bad as some might have you believe, but they’re still bad. And lots and lots of people seem to be asking their elected representatives why they did this. After all, despite the fact that the vast majority of both Republican and Democratic voters supported the rules (as they did with net neutrality rules as well…), in Congress everyone lined up along party lines over this issue, with Republican members of Congress voting down the rules.

At least some are now facing backlash over this… and they don’t seem to be handling it well. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner seems to have what may be the worst possible take on this after being asked about it. He told a constituent, to maybe just not use the internet if you don’t like it. That linked article only has part of the quote, but here’s the video of the question and the response:

The questioner points out, correctly, that for individual services, like Facebook, people have a choice of how much they actually use them or what info they give, but for your overall ISP that’s not true — and also notes that there aren’t competitive options. Sensenbrenner’s answer is… maddeningly nonsensical and wrong, and basically ignores everything the questioner just said to him:

“You know, again, nobody’s got to use the internet. And the thing is, if you start regulating the internet like a utility, if you did that right at the beginning, we’d have no internet. Internet companies have invested an awful lot of money in having almost universal services, now. And the fact is, you know, I don?t think it?s my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising through your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it and then you take it upon yourself to make the choice that the government should give you. And that’s what the law has been and I think we ought to have more choices, rather than fewer choices, with the government controlling our everyday lives.?

Now, it’s a live situation, and perhaps Rep. Sensenbrenner misspoke. But, no, his press office doubled down on this when someone called it out on Twitter. Amusingly, the press office was trying to parse the difference between “don’t use the internet” (as a Tweeter claimed Sensenbrenner said) and “you have a choice” which is… well… not a very big difference, despite his press office claiming it’s a “big difference.”

The idea that people “have a choice” in using the internet today is laughably out of touch. Indeed, so many things that people rely on today pretty much require the internet. Jobs, transportation, housing and more frequently require the internet. And, to put an even stronger “WTF” on Sensenbrenner’s misguided statement: a big part of the problem here is the very lack of choice. The vast majority of Americans have no real choice when it comes to getting true broadband access — as the very questioner stated, and which Sensenbrenner totally ignored. Thanks to bad policies, we have a non-competitive market, where if you want broadband, you basically have to go with one company, and then it gets access to a ton of data about you.

If Sensenbrenner truly meant what he said here, he’d have been against rolling back the rules. As small ISP boss Dane Jasper recently noted on our podcast, without these privacy rules, it actually gives the giant providers that much more power over the smaller upstarts, and makes it harder for the small providers to compete.

Also, Sensenbrenner is simply flat out wrong with his argument about “if the internet was regulated like a utility at the beginning” because it WAS regulated like a utility at the beginning and it resulted in tons of competition and innovation. Indeed, for most of the internet’s early rise it was treated as a utility in terms of things like open access and line sharing. And privacy rules. It’s only more recently that that went away.

Also, I have no clue what Sensenbrenner is trying to say when he says: “I don’t think it’s my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising through your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it and then you take it upon yourself to make the choice that the government should give you.” What does that even mean? First of all, it was the FCC’s job, and it did so. What Sensenbrenner did here was to roll back what the FCC said. Second, even with the rules, it never said that “you cannot get advertising through your information being sold.” All the rules did was say that ISPs had to tell you about it and offer clear options on how you controlled your data. Third, seriously, what is he saying when he says his job is “to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it and then you take it upon yourself to make the choice that the government should give you.” I honestly keep reading that sentence and cannot parse it. The privacy rules were what gave individuals choices. It gave them choices in how their data could be used. Rolling back those rules takes away the choice.

For years, we’ve pointed out that Congress appears totally and completely out of touch when it comes to basic tech policy — especially related to the internet. Jim Sensenbrenner’s vote and statements on this issue have only confirmed that basic fact.

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Comments on “Bad Take: Rep. Sensenbrenner's Response Over Internet Privacy Concerns: 'Nobody's Got To Use The Internet'”

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99 Comments
Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Cut off his internet

Keep in mind that this is a guy who still writes his letters on a 1971 IBM Selectric II typewriter.

Dunno if it’s because he likes the old technology, or if – like several Congressman who say "they don’t use email" and have their aides use it for them – it’s about bypassing email archiving laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Cut off his internet

There isn’t even a need for that. Even if he doesn’t know it, he is using the internet every single day at work and at home… it doesn’t matter what he himself believes. Telling your assistant drone to send a message to somewhere is the same as using a google home (or whatever your favorite smart voice recognition device is) and I believe that no one could say with a straight face that you aren’t using the internet when using one of those.
Just cut off his access to the internet through the 5 closest people and this guy would be in trouble.

Median Wilfred says:

Republicans, free market, and totalitarians

For the last 20 years, it appears that Republicans are against government being in charge, but are 110% in favor of churches and corporations being absolute rulers. Citizens exist solely to vote Republican, get fleeced by churches and overpay already bloated monopoly corporations. What the fuck?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Republicans, free market, and totalitarians

Apparently that is what makes America “Great Again” …

Who knew … not like any of those liars actually detailed wtf they were talking about while spewing that total bs. Dog whistle for some, complete bs for most everyone else. But they won the electoral college and that means everyone marches in lock step – right? … lol. What’s next, a law forbidding any criticism of these asshats?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Drink the poisoned water or go without.

It appears that some of our elite congressional representatives are a tad bit ignorant – I’m shocked.

When called out on their ignorance they deflect in several ways, some of which are a big concern as it sheds light upon how screwed we all are – including the ignorant idiots, but they are too stupid to even realize or acknowledge same.

Rob (profile) says:

“You know, again, nobody’s got to use the internet. And the thing is, if you start regulating the internet like a utility, if you did that right at the beginning, we’d have no internet.”

Seems to me when the internet was dial-up it was regulated. There were at least 6 different ISP’s in my area and prices were competitively lowered to about $7.00 a month. Now I have 1 ISP with truly fast speeds (Comcast).

The biggest mistake was never opening up the last mile.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What you consider to be a mistake, they call a huge success – big surprise huh.

This implies they do not have your best interests in mind.
And yet we still refer to this as a representative form of government … really? I thought everyone was supposed to be represented, not just the uber riche. Now I’m told that the proles simply need to suck it up. You got yours, screw everyone else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The last mile was opened up! I don’t know if people remembered this, but you could get DSL service from a number of company’s. I in fact had SDLS service from this one company early on which most DSL service is ADSL. So that last mile, the one going to your house was OPEN. Of course they ended up going out of business. I lost high speed Internet. So I tried getting DSL service from AT&T and they told me I was to far away, so I ended up getting ISDN. That was 64kbps per B channel. Which was faster then a Phone Modem, not by a whole lot, and you could double that using both B channels. It wasn’t exactly fast, and it wasn’t exactly cheap. Especally using both B channels at once. I couldn’t wait until Comcast Internet came to town. I heard it was coming, so I went out and got a cable modem, Plugged it in and waited until it made a connection after a few weeks. Called Comcast, at first they said they didn’t have service in my area yet, but in the end I finally was connected up. So I must of been one of the first in town back then to get Cable Internet.

It was way back then when the last mile closed up and it was AT&T or whoever your local phone company was for DSL service or your cable company for Internet and that was pretty much it.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The last mile was opened up! I don’t know if people remembered this, but you could get DSL service from a number of company’s.

All of whom were renting it from the same phone company. Which is why the market dried up.

It turns out that, if your choice of ISP is between Qwest and Joe Blow’s Local ISP renting Qwest, then Qwest is getting paid either way — meaning it can charge little or nothing for its ISP offering (at least for the first year or two before it jacks up its prices) and still turn a profit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Had an anonymous sound-off letter published in the local paper today:

Thank you, Congressman Mike Bost, for voting to end our internet privacy. Your browsing history can now be sold by ATT and Charter. Imagine the fun of discovering from Walmart or any other retailer that your 14-year-old daughter is pregnant.

Sorry for putting this here, but it needs wider attention.

sigalrm (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This already happened back in 2012:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-target-figured-out-a-teen-girl-was-pregnant-before-her-father-did

Will begin to happen more.

But think of the possibilities – suddenly, advertisements for divorce lawyers start to show up. Ditto STD testing. Or counseling/drug treatment, etc services.

There’s lots of things people search for that they really don’t want/need to be known even inside the household.

JD says:

To me, he’ll always be the petulant politician who was so mad that people were talking about Guantanamo Bay at a PATRIOT Act hearing in 2005 that he abruptly gaveled the session to a close, took the gavel with him and then cut the mics of the other reps.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/10/AR2005061002110.html

I’m shocked — shocked — that someone with that thin of a skin would show even greater levels of contempt for the public.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have got my popcorn

I have my entertainment…

what could be better?

Like I said before Trump was in power, the actions that democrats are taking will help ENSURE that someone like Trump will be elected into office.

Now, we have the reverse of it at play. Right now the actions of the republics will help to put someone like Hillary in next time around.

Just as George Washington foretold in his farewell address if we keep sticking to political parties… “the dominance of one party over the other, sharpened by the spirit of revenge will reduce government to a despotism!”

If you liked Obama, then you have ZERO standing to bitch about Trump, because you helped bring him here, you need to sleep in the bed you helped make. Those of you that like Trump, your hate for Obama was bankrupt!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Oh, government WORKS, just not in the way we want it!

Better analogy is to state that government is terrible at everything it does, so if you want something done right, get government involved. Sure there are some things you cannot avoid the involvement of government, those are narrow and few, and SHOULD kept that way!

Anonymous Coward says:

> “You know, again, nobody’s got to use the internet.”

Even churches share information primarily through the internet these days. During Easter service on Sunday the church I was in read off a web address to locate materials. I suppose nobody has to eat, or leave their own home, but they certainly feel necessary to modern life each in their own right.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Sure, but there are systemic biases that grant advantages to certain types of candidates.

The crowded Republican field and first-past-the-post vote certification certainly worked in Trump’s favor. Do you think he could have gotten the nomination in an instant-runoff system, or any other designed to advantage consensus candidates over polarizing ones?

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I do think so. Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015, was leading in the polls within a month, and kept the lead for the rest of the election. Contrast that with 2012 where everyone including Herman Cain got their turn in the lead.

I can name a few problems within the party that led to Trump’s nomination, but I don’t think that first-past-the-post is one of them.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I do think so. Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015, was leading in the polls within a month, and kept the lead for the rest of the election.

And even after all that, he still only got 45% of the vote. Most Republican primary voters did not vote for him; that’s my point.

Of the people who voted for Rubio or Kasich, how many people do you think would have picked Trump as their second choice? Hell, of the people who voted for Cruz, how many do you think would have picked Cruz as their first choice (as opposed to just voting for him because he had the best shot at beating Trump)?

Trump had more people pick him as their first choice than anybody else. But for most people, he was, demonstrably, not their first choice.

How many people do you suppose considered him their absolute last choice? If the number is any higher than 5.1%, then it’s a mathematical certainty that he would have lost under a system with instant runoff and proportional delegate assignment.

And that’s assuming the votes broke down exactly the same otherwise, and not getting into other events that could have made the numbers even worse for Trump, such as candidates like Walker, Rubio, and Bush staying in the race longer (as their chances would certainly have been better under a system that rewarded second, third, and fourth choices).

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I certainly can’t be bothered to vote, and you know why? I spent more than two decades voting third-party and not a single candidate ever won. Not even close. If the candidate I voted for was mentioned, it was to laugh at how few votes they got. So yes, I can’t be bothered to vote since there is NO ALTERNATIVE.

Of course, I don’t call it not being bothered to vote, I call it BOYCOTTING A CORRUPT SYSTEM. I get to laugh at all you idiots who keep voting Dem or Rep. You keep voting for Kodos and complaining about your chains. I’d move to another country, but they’re all at least as bad or worse these days.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That’s not a corruption problem; that’s an education problem.

Here in Canada we have a first past the post system. And yet we still have viable 3rd and 4th parties. Most people know that a vote for a third party isn’t a spoiled ballot. They still have influence.

Even with only a small handful of seats in Parliament, a third party is often the deciding factor in many votes. The two main parties would have to make deals or form coalitions with the third party to get their majority. And that means adopting a few of the third party’s policies.

Or the one of the two main parties will see a third party’s policy earning points in the polls, and they’ll adopt it for themselves. And so the third party’s policy gets enacted without the party being elected.

It also means that a party on the left or right can’t take the voters on their own side for granted. There’s often another party that can step in to take their place. 20 years ago one party went from running Canada to being effectively voted out of existence.

US voters don’t seem to realize this, so there’s a negative feedback loop. They don’t believe in third parties, so the third parties don’t get votes. Which in turn means – as 2016 made clear – they don’t attract viable leaders. Which means they don’t get votes…

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

That just means that Canada hasn’t devolved to the natural end-point of a single-choice, first-past-the-post voting system yet. There was a time when America hadn’t either, and yet here we are.

The real problem isn’t first-past-the-post itself; it’s the spoiler effect, and the perverse voting patterns which it incentivizes. That effect exists under first-past-the-post, and there’s no way to eliminate or minimize that fact; the only solution is to switch to a voting system which does not produce that effect.

(The best-known ranked-choice voting system, known as IRV – the one in which the candidate with the most last-place or fewest first-place votes is eliminated, and then the results are recalculated on the basis of the remaining candidates – doesn’t have the same spoiler effect as does FPTP, but does still leave situations in which ranking your preferred candidate a certain way can actually decrease the chance of that candidate winning. A Condorcet system, although much harder to understand, is the most ideal option known as far as perverse incentives goes.)

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

No – that line is based on a persuasive analysis I ran across last year which explained/argued the ways in which the structural incentives of single-choice first-past-the-post drive inevitably towards a two-party system, purely out of people attempting to vote in their own best interests.

Unfortunately I don’t remember where that analysis was or who presented it, so I can’t cite it effectively, and I don’t remember its arguments well enough to persuasively present them myself.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t care for the FCC because of the whimsical way in which our politicians seem to control the regulations that govern it. I think if the laws/regulations can be manipulated before they even go into effect, they are useless and stand to do more harm than good. It’s not that I think regulation is bad, it’s the ability to change it so easily by whatever idiot that I, and my fellow countrymen, have chosen to elect that I have a problem with.

With that said; This guy is an idiot. All I heard after “”You know, again, nobody’s got to use the internet.” was blah blah blah… my mind had already dismissed any/all explanations that came out of his mouth. I haven’t witnessed this kind of stupid since I watched that youtube video where the guy tried to shoot a bottle rocket from his butt, and ended up cooking his balls.

This is a perfect example of why I think regulation in it’s current form is “bad”. This guy has absolutely no clue what he’s talking about. At best he should be working as an announcer at the local bat-shit-crazy right wing bingo hall not making laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“It’s not that I think regulation is bad, it’s the ability to change it so easily by whatever idiot that I, and my fellow countrymen, have chosen to elect that I have a problem with.”

that’s uhh…. kinda what makes them bad!

Sure objectively regulation is the same as bias! Both words that can be used in positive or negative light. The problem is that are simply subjective terms with identity politics unfortunately intertwined rendering new definitions for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Nice straw man ass hat. No one but you said “”regulations are bad because removing this regulation was bad””. I said, in a nut shell; Regulation in it’s current form is “bad”. Don’t make weak ass regulations that are subject to the political whims of people that have no idea what the fuck they are doing, or are bought and paid for by their corporate masters. If that’s what your going to do, then I would rather you do nothing at all.

But hey, who am I to stop you? Go ahead! Climb up on your high horse, pour on a heavy dose of snark, and watch your regulation go right down the damn toilet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The proof is in the outcome. The regulation is gone. The organization that enforced the regulation is gutted. It may not ever come back. If it does, it will only be until the pendulum swings to the other side again… tick tock. Keep playing the partisan game thug. From the losing side no less.. LOL.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The proof is in the outcome. The regulation is gone. The organization that enforced the regulation is gutted. It may not ever come back. If it does, it will only be until the pendulum swings to the other side again… tick tock.

Let me get this straight: you’ve noticed that laws can be changed depending on which politicians are elected to office…and you have concluded that this is a bad thing? That’s what representative democracy is, Jack. I may not always agree with the outcome (and I think it’s quite clear that in this instance the representatives are voting contrary to their constituents’ wishes) but what alternative do you propose? Laws that can never ever be repealed? Yeah, I can’t imagine any way that could ever go wrong.

Keep playing the partisan game thug.

Game Thug? Is that like a Game Boy with a gold chain?

From the losing side no less.. LOL.

This is a partisan issue, Mr. Coward. 100% of the people who voted for it are Republican. I’m not the one making it a partisan issue; they are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“This is a partisan issue, Mr. Coward. 100% of the people who voted for it are Republican. I’m not the one making it a partisan issue; they are.”

Exactly my point. When laws only have the support of one side in 2 party system, they are doomed from the start. As soon as the other side comes to power, and it’s inevitable that they will, they will stop at nothing to destroy it. As they are. I’m just stating what is already happening.

The rules started partisan. “The 3-2 party line vote by the FCC’s five commissioners, ” and they ended just as you said, partisan.

“Let me get this straight: you’ve noticed that laws can be changed depending on which politicians are elected to office…and you have concluded that this is a bad thing? “

How about we make laws that are supported by all players and not just one side? Perhaps then they may survive when the political winds change? If you can’t get the support from one side, at least SOME support, perhaps no law at all would be better? As it stands; It was doomed from the start and a complete waste of time.

The good news is you can say whatever you want, the proof is right here in this story. I don’t have to be right. I’m just pointing out what is already happening.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/10/27/the-fcc-just-passed-sweeping-new-rules-to-protect-your-online-privacy/?utm_term=.9b73da92c7fa

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“How about we make laws that are supported by all players and not just one side? “

You’re kidding, right? How do you get two diametrically opposed people to agree on anything? I suppose you could put them both in a room and let them decide whether they should blow themselves up – you think they might agree upon this one item or will they be thinking about how they can trap their opponent in the room while at the same time escape.

Chombs (profile) says:

Ah yes, the old: “if you don’t like the price, don’t buy it”… has never worked. Say that in regards to food, transportation, medicine/health, clothing, and so many other basic and secondary goods/services to half of the world population which is poor and cannot afford. Utter ridiculous non-sense.

Now this “if you don’t like the internet then don’t use it” like this dude is barfing if so full of itself, especially in the 21st century, the era of information.

First, the correct phrase would be “if you don’t like the internet how we are trying it to be for the profit of a few then don’t use it”…that would be a bit less misleading.

Second, free access to information IS a universal human right. Right to privacy is a universal human right. So he does not have a say on how the internet should be, or should we use it or not, it is a universal human right, above him and his party, his interest buddies and even above the American constitution.

What an idiotic person, so archaic. If we all thought like him, we would all be back in the stone age.

He claims that if the internet was regulated as a utility then there would be no internet at all, but that is just his very biased opinion (obviously) with no proof or data to support such ridiculous claim.

Electricity, water, etc are all considered utilities and they are still here, then why not the internet?

DNY (profile) says:

Perhaps he can champion legislation to make that so...

These remarks being made at the end of tax filing season are beyond risible. I invite Rep. Sensenbrenner to actually file his own Federal Income Tax and find a way to do it without using the internet. His office can then start working on legislation to make it so one doesn’t need to use the internet to file one’s Federal taxes.

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