On April 3, 2017, President Trump signed a congressional resolution that changes the privacy rules governing internet service providers. Even if you don’t have skeletons in your browser history, you should be concerned. Here are five things to know about the new regulations:
1. Individual browser histories are not for sale
ISPs have promised both consumers and the government that they won’t use your data irresponsibly or sell your personally identifiable browsing records. That’s right. Big internet promised it wouldn’t. Feel better now?
2. The GOP’s argument has a major flaw
The argument for changing the rules is that it puts ISPs and web services (Facebook, Twitter) on a level playing field. Before, ISPs were legally prohibited from collecting data that websites were allowed to compile. The GOP’s position makes perfect sense, until you remember that many areas of the United States are served by a single internet provider, so users can’t opt out the way they can by just avoiding some websites.
3. This change is motivated by money
The more of your information a company has, the more effectively it can advertise you. Companies such as Facebook collect tons of useful personal data and can command high ad revenues. In fact, two-thirds of online advertising money goes to Facebook and Google. It’s no secret that ISPs want in on that dough.
4. You give up a lot more data than you think
It’s not just your browser history. Your ISP has access to your emails if their content is not encrypted. If you use location services through the ISP, it can see where you go. Most companies have pledged not to use all the types of data they have access to, but the bottom line is they could if they wanted to. Additionally, these companies often store your data for as long as two years.
5. There are ways to keep your data private
You can use a virtual private network, or VPN, to keep your internet provider from seeing your browsing history and other personal stuff … but you’ll be giving the VPN company the access instead. Programs such as Tor hide your browsing history too, but they sacrifice speed in a big way.