A bill that has now passed both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives would repeal a Federal Communications Commission rule issued last year that allows consumers to decide how internet service providers use their information.
If President Trump signs it into law, as he is expected to do, the rule can not be reinstated by the FCC. ISPs could then track you, sell that information to any buyer, or use it to advertise to you directly.
Let’s say you open private browser to avoid being tracked by Facebook, Google and other third-party trackers, there’s a party that still can see the sites and services you visit. That’s your internet service provider.
“Your ISP can already monetize you based on your demographics,” Sean Sullivan, Security Advisor at F-Secure, tells me. “Still, they feel that they’re behind Facebook and Google’s ad technology — and arguably they are. But the difference is you can avoid Google and Facebook. You can’t avoid your ISP.”
There is still something that you can do that gives you more control over who has access to your browsing history.
“Your ISP is privy to all the web destinations you visit, unless you’re using a VPN,” Sean says. “Then they’re only privy to seeing that you went to, for instance, VPN.F-Secure.com.”
A VPN is a virtual private network and it puts all of your browsing data in the hands of one provider who encrypts it.
“VPNs are essentially a way of moving your trust,” says Jacob Hoffman-Andrews, senior staff technologist at EFF, told The Verge.
This requires finding a VPN provider you can put your full faith in. A recent study from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization found that this isn’t as easy as you might assume.
“The good news is that CSIRO researchers did find some gems,” Wired reported. “They specifically lauded F-Secure Freedome, an app that encrypts what it says it will and offers quality ad-blocking to boot. Sure, it’ll cost you $6 per month. But online privacy is like anything else in life: You get what you pay for.”
At F-Secure, we put our reputation from three decades in the security industry behind Freedome. As PC World noted, “Freedome VPN pledges not to log your traffic and is run by F-Secure, an established and reputable name in Internet security.
Our F-Secure TOTAL security and privacy offers both our award-winning best protection along with the encrypted privacy of Freedome.
Forcing consumers to take their privacy in their own hands shows a lack of foresight about rapid evolution of ad technology, Sean tells me. Currently, advertisers generally divide consumers into four segments to target them.
“With artificial intelligence, there’s nothing slowing them down from developing bots the target you down to one hundred or even one thousand segmentations,” he says.
If your ISP knows that you’ve visited, for instance, a site about a medical or psychological affliction, that information can be used to target you. And given the radical advances of technology and massive amounts of time we all spend online, the ramifications of such targeting are almost impossible to imagine.
Unfortunately, the U.S. government is forcing you to consider who will have control of your browsing history. With a VPN, you can do something about it.
[Image by Shane Adams | Flickr]