Privacy

Don’t give your money to that campaign to buy Republicans’ browser histories

Comment

cash register
Image Credits: Jason Costanza (opens in a new window) / Flickr (opens in a new window) under a CC BY 2.0 (opens in a new window) license. (Image has been modified)

Have you seen the viral GoFundMe campaign floating around that vows to buy and publish the web histories of every politician and exec who is helping internet providers sell your data? Yeah, don’t give that dude your money.

I’m all for wacky clever revenge plots, but this one just looks like a straight up scam. Whether self-proclaimed privacy activist Adam McElhaney means well or not (and he may), this campaign just doesn’t make a lot of sense. And yet it’s already made over $110,000!

https://twitter.com/windmarble/status/847212800871161856

First of all, 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 (what table??) and demand targeted, de-anonymized internet data on individual users, successful GoFundMe campaign or not. Sure, advertisers can buy web user data, but that’s generally done in aggregate, and they have existing relationships that let them broker these kind of deals to begin with, sketchy as they may be.

Second, I mean, yeah, it’s hypocritical. If you care about privacy, like really believe in it, throwing your ideals out the window for a half-baked revenge plot isn’t a very good look. And like I said, I like revenge just fine. But it’s a dish best served cold, and anyone who gives a shit about privacy is still worked up from yesterday’s nonsense. And, by the way, the GoFundMe wants to target not only the politicians and the telecom fat cats, but also their families (check the fine print). Not cool.

If you don’t believe me, then maybe you’ll listen to Max Temkin, one of the creators of Cards Against Humanity, a company known for its often quite clever and wildly absurd crowdfunding schemes, like that time they dug a literal money pit with your money. Dude apparently had the same idea, but even he thinks this GoFundMe situation is sketchy AF. This is coming from a guy who is literally sending potatoes to members of Congress.

https://twitter.com/MaxTemkin/status/847168073627025409

https://twitter.com/MaxTemkin/status/847173740555354112

Apparently this campaign doesn’t raise any red flags for GoFundMe, which provided TechCrunch with this statement:

“The campaign doesn’t violate our terms of service. We are working directly with the campaign organizer to ensure the funds are managed appropriately. We encourage the campaign organizer to be transparent and continually provide updates on the campaign page.”

We’ll update when we hear more from GoFundMe about what that means exactly or if McElhaney responds to our requests for comment. Like we said, he might mean well, or he might not. It doesn’t really matter. Save your cash for the battles that do — they’re probably just around the corner.

Update: A day after our story went up, McElhaney responded to our request for comment about how he planned to deliver on the promise of his campaign. He didn’t provide specifics or answers of any kind really, but you can read McElhaney’s screed below if you feel like it.

The site went viral literally overnight. It was my hope at first that a few people would see it and could get a conversation started. Maybe some would chip in some money to help offset the cost of hosting. But my original intent was to start a dialogue.

Wow. Did it ever.

I had never imagined I would be thrust into a position in which I have a national voice, albeit small. I’m really no one important or famous. But to quickly raise $166,000 in 4 days says something about the state people are in.

We are angry. I’m angry. You should be angry.

Everyday, more and more of our civil liberties are chipped away.

Where does it stop? The most sinister is the future applications of such a repeal of the law. Before it was a grey area if ISPs and Telecom’s could do this. Then the Obama-era FCC finally stepped in and said no. The lobbyist waited for an opportunity to repeal that law that would have gone into full effect later this year. Now, it’s not grey. It’s black and white. They can do this. Some argue that he data is anonymous or aggregated. Maybe to the marketing companies present day. But not to the ISP’s and they know that. They can attach your name to your IP address an then sell that to someone. Insurance companies, Law enforcement, ex-wife, whoever. That may not be what happens today, but it certainly will be happening in the future.

The ISP’s have been quoted as saying “they respect the privacy and will not sell the data.” Then why lobby to have the law removed?

The worst-case scenario is the obvious future abuse. Right now, your data may not be tied to you specifically. But that is only right now.

I can foresee a future in which people must submit their search history to their medical insurance company prior to getting coverage. They may want to look to see if you have been searching for symptoms to a disease that might be too expensive to cover.

Maybe before you get a loan from a bank, you will have to submit to having your search history to verify you haven’t been looking up bankruptcy options.

Maybe your employer wants to know if you have been looking up other jobs.

Generating more money is important to the ISP’s and Telecoms. Rightly so, they are in the business to make money. But when they realize they can trade on your data, without your knowledge to consent, that’s where the abuse will come.

My ultimate goal, my driving force is to get that law back into play. I think a lot of people do not realize this isn’t about retaliation. This is about showing our legislators that this is the what the future holds. It may not be right now that I can just go online and buy someone’s history. But that future is coming. That is what I am trying to get people to see and understand.

As for is it possible? Yes. I’m unsure if you are familiar with Telecom Data as a Service field. Or companies like Acxiom, which is one of the largest data-brokering firms in the world. There are hundreds of companies out there doing just this. Some can attach your email to your credit card transactions.

They purchase data. And if they can, I’ll find a way, too.

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

20 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

21 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android