The Slippery Slope of Internet Privacy

The U.S. Senate has now voted to remove prior regulations prohibiting Internet Service Providers (ISPs)–the folks you pay for your home Internet pipe–from selling your browsing and Internet data to others for fun and profit. This is pretty terrible news if you care at all about your Internet privacy. For a long time now ISP's have been storing and saving your Internet history data. They know where you go and how long you spend there. This new regulation, assuming it also passes the house and gets signed into law (it will) lets them sell your data.

I hate this.

One of the big arguments in favor of this change by ISPs is that because Google and Facebook are making money from our data, they should get in on the action too. That argument, however, fails. Google and Facebook are services that consumers can use or avoid. Consumers can, in effect, opt out of the madness. That isn't true with your home Internet connection. Every website you visit and every web service you use are now information available on the open market.

You may be thinking how you don't do anything particularly nefarious so it doesn't matter. I think that is short-sighted. Somebody with a few bucks should not be able to find that I spend time at certain banking websites or researching certain medical issues or even websites about one political belief over another. Future employers, or insurers, or anybody else with a check book should not be able to snoop through my browsing records.

This seems to me the kind of thing that you'd want to protect no matter where you stand on the political spectrum. Even though the vote on this is down party lines, I have multiple conservative friends that are up in arms over it.

So what can you do?

1. Complain

I'd encourage you to complain to your congressperson. The House of Representatives hasn't voted yet and is a great place to start.

2. Get a VPN

Virtual Private Network services allow you to get on the Internet without the ISP seeing where you are actually going. The VPN company will know but, assuming you use a reputable one, they won't sell your data. I've been using VPNs for years. They're particularly helpful if you spend a lot of time on the road using WiFi that you don't control. Recently I purchased a one-year subscription from Cloak and right now I'm feeling pretty good about that. I could turn that on at home any time (or selectively) to hold on to my privacy.

3. Go Elsewhere for your Internet Pipe

For a lot of communities, the options are very limited but if you have other options for your Internet service, investigate them. Maybe some of them will make your privacy their selling point.

Before you email me to say I'm being alarmist or to remind me that most of our Internet privacy was already fictional, I understand what you are saying. Nevertheless, I can't help but feel in the slippery slope of Internet privacy, we're about to take a pretty long slide.