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Deregulating Internet firms may backfire on Republicans

One of the hotter tech topics in the US at the moment is the decision by congress to compromise privacy, the argument runs, by allowing technology companies to sell users’ browsing details and Internet histories.

In other words whatever you look at on the Internet is recorded somewhere and there is going to be nothing, once the SJR34 resolution becomes law, to stop a business gathering that data and selling it on.

For many people this is a step too far against people’s privacy.

Investigate a senator

Inevitably a number of wits have responded by raising the money to buy and sell senators’ details, with Paul Ryan (pictured) the favourite chosen “victim”. One person had raised $186,358 (about £147,356) so far on GoFundMe, with the promise that he will return all money if the project fails.

This is not the only such page on the site. However, a lot of the smart money says it’s not going to work because in American law, you can’t identify an individual when using their Internet history. So there is commercial and no doubt public sector value in noting that, for example, people in Beverly Hills are more likely to be searching online for accessories for expensive cars than people in a poorer area, but detail such as “…and Brian is searching for new seat covers” is, even under the new resolution, not allowed.

An amendment was due to ensure people could opt out of even the limited sharing we’ve outlined and it’s the dropping of this and the replacement of it with SJR34 that’s provoked the anger.

Without the power to identify individuals, however, it’s just about impossible to publicise Paul Ryan’s or Donald Trump’s browsing history lawfully, so the activists are going to have a lot of money to return. It’s also worth bearing in mind that on signing up to a lot of Google services, people sign away the right to monitor and sell their Internet history without thinking about it, so the actual impact is likely to be small.

Even so, the thought of senators legislating to sell their own details made us smile.