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Lawmakers sacrificed your browsing history? Post theirs online

An activist is pissed about Congress' efforts to roll back internet privacy rules. And he's got a sly plan for revenge.

A cheeky advocate of online privacy wants to take the lid off of Congress' web-browsing habits.
A cheeky advocate of online privacy wants to take the lid off of Congress' web-browsing habits.
Getty Images

Politicians can dish it out. But can they take it?

That's the thinking behind a clever online campaign that protests Tuesday's vote by House Republicans to pull the plug on internet privacy rules.

As you may've heard, lawmakers voted largely along party lines to approve a resolution that wipes out privacy rules passed last year by the Federal Communications Commission. The resolution has already cleared the Senate, and President Donald Trump is expected to make it official with his signature.

If that happens, critics say, the companies you pay for internet access will be able to sell your web browsing history to marketers and others. Yup, including mention of that unmentionable site you checked out last night.

Fans of dumping the FCC rules say they place unfair restrictions on Comcast, Charter Communications, Verizon, and other internet service providers.

Self-described privacy activist Adam McElhaney counts himself among the critics, and he's come up with a plan to teach Congress a lesson. He says that once Trump signs on the dotted line, he (McElhaney) will purchase the internet histories of the legislators who voted to nix the privacy protections. Then he'll post those histories online for all to see, on a site called Search Internet History.

"Help me raise money to buy the histories of those who took away your right to privacy," McElhaney says on crowd-funding site GoFundMe, where he's turned to generate money for his scheme. As of this writing, he's already raised nearly $100,000.

It's not clear whether McElhaney would actually be able to buy a given lawmaker's web history. We've asked Comcast, Charter, and Verizon for their insights on the matter but haven't yet heard back.

It's also not clear what McElhaney will do with the money he's raised if it turns out he can't buy the histories.

"I don't have all the answers to a lot of questions right now," he says on GoFundMe. "But I'm working with people who are assisting me in developing a fully fledged plan. I do hope that if you are skeptical, you'll stay with me and watch."

If McElhaney does succeed in buying and publishing those browsing histories, he will have raised not just money and awareness, but also, we imagine, the hackles of one or two politicos.

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