Several crowdfunding campaigns on GoFundMe and other platforms intend to buy and publish the web browser histories of all politicians who voted to repeal the FCC’s internet privacy rules.
The U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have both agreed on passing the resolution that would repeal the Obama-era laws that state ISPs cannot collect nor share user data with third parties without their consent.
Together, self-called privacy activists have collected close to $500,000 for the cause, but many have been quick to point out that what they aim to achieve is easier said than done. It is not exactly legal to buy someone’s browser history, and there is no legal marketplace where you can make that kind of purchase.
Browser histories are not available for everyone to buy
“IT’S NOT LIKE THIS SORT OF THING IS A TRUE OPEN MARKET WHERE ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING GOES. PRIVATE INDIVIDUALS CAN’T JUST WALTZ IN, SLAM THEIR MONEY ON A TABLE AND DEMAND TARGETED, DE-ANONYMIZED DATA ON INDIVIDUAL USERS,” TechCrunch reports.
Other web portals like The Verge and The Guardian have also published articles trying to talk sense into users who are donating money in droves to online campaigns that are making dubious promises.
The most prominent of them all is by far Adam McElhaney’s Search Internet History campaign on GoFundMe. Started on March 25, it has raised over $180,000 at the moment of this writing.
It has already exceeded almost twenty times its original $10,000 goal, and the privacy activist claims he will return the money to donors if he fails to deliver on his promise.
However, the most worrying thing about McElhaney and other people’s campaigns is that these pledges seem to be completely unfounded and some even sort of radical. The Chattanooga man wrote he would publish everything from medical history to porn, and not only of politicians but also of their families.
GoFundMe has no issue with these campaigns
Several tech reporters have noted these wild claims are a weak basis on which to build a campaign, especially after pointing out that there are legal implications to taking this approach.
When contacted by TechCrunch, GoFundMe backed the user saying they were working with him directly, and that the publication did not violate any terms of service. They highlighted the importance of transparency but did not go any further in condemning or condoning the campaign.