This Law Hurts Privacy More Than Wiretapping
From the time he took the office on January 20, President Donald Trump has signed numerous controversial bills and orders, but not a single of them of them have crisscrossed with technology quite in the manner that the bill removing online privacy protections has.
In the midst of talks about wire-tapping and invasion of privacy, this law has literally lifted the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) restrictions on Internet service providers (ISPs) allowing them to sell off consumer data for instance geo-location, browser history, and other personal data to third-parties.
So now, there is no stopping to the ISPs from trading off internet users’ data to advertisers and even law enforcement agencies, whoever comes with the highest bid. From there, the consumer's data is assessed and analyzed for better positioning of advertisements and to forecast future behavior.
A couple of months ago, there was a fuss about how spying on someone is an utmost invasion of an individual’s privacy but SJ Res 86’s very definition is a coup de grace on privacy.
How Does All This Affect The People?
An internet user is always at a risk of exposing his or herself when on the internet. It is also argued that the web sometimes reveals more about a person’s personality than their own self-image, because since we are broadcasting almost everything about ourselves on the internet, it can be ridiculously revealing.
Similar to doctor and patient privacy, we have the right to privacy when you go to the Web.
Google and Facebook, being large contributors for Barack Obama, have been allegedly tracking and sharing our browsing history with whoever for years and were getting away with it. In the Obama government, corporations such as Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and others were deprived of the same information-sharing freedoms.
With the exception of Apple, all of these companies make a lot of their money on our browsing history, and when only two are singled out as winners, our government is blatantly in violation.
According to the privacy supporters, companies that are selling internet connections have access to customer’s information in the form of websites they visit, and even the exchange of emails, information that would be particularly useful for advertisers and marketers.
Experts say internet providers are still required to protect customer information, however, it does not particularly specify how or what companies must do, hence the online privacy rule. This only implies that companies providing and monitoring internet services can extract information and invest in the advertising business. Another concern is that since now broadband providers will be in possession of valuable and sensitive data, they are going to attract hackers’ attention too.
What Information Is At Risk?
Internet service providers can lawfully sell off the following private data without the care for any approval:
- Geo-location data
- Financial and health information
- Children’s information
- Social Security numbers
- Web browsing history
- App usage history
- Content of communications
- Timestamp of communications
How to Protect Your Private Data
What options are the US citizens left with, except may be:
- A VPN
- Tor Browser
- Incognito/Private Mode in Browser
- Anti-tracking Tools
In order to prevent the internet service providers from cashing on the private data, a VPN is needed. When using VPN you are connected to a server run by the VPN provider via an encrypted connection.
This means that all data traveling between your computer and the VPN server is encrypted so that only you and the VPN server can “see” it.
Consequently, the ISPs cannot spy on the online activities. VPN also hides the IP address and masks the online identity.
Tor aims to camouflage its users' identities and their online activity from surveillance and traffic analysis by separating identification and routing. It is an implementation of onion routing, which encrypts and then randomly bounces communications through a network of relays run by volunteers around the globe.
Incognito mode opens a separate window which allows you to browse the Internet privately without the browser saving the sites you visit. All top browsers now come with the incognito or private browsing feature.
An anti-tracking software assures your online activity is not being recorded. It safeguards your online identity by actively blocking website's efforts to track your visits using services such as Google Analytics, Woopra, WebTrends.
Find Anas Baig on Twitter @anasbaigdm.
Posted by Anas Baig on May 16, 2017