We All Just Lost Our Internet Privacy—Now What!

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Internet privacy

 

The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that allows Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to sell their customers’ web browsing histories to advertisers and other third parties. The Senate already passed the bill, so now it will go to President Trump’s desk for signing—and he already has stated that he will sign it into law.

What Does This Mean For You

“We are now in a world where your ISP can track your every move online and sell that information to the highest bidder,” stated Kate Tummarello of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that advocated for online privacy rights. This means that ISPs will be able to share such information as your:

  • Shopping habits
  • Health data
  • Children’s information
  • Banking habits
  • Political views
  • Social Security Number

In 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established rules for how ISPs could handle their customers’ data. Those rules specifically stated that customer data needed to be protected and that information, such as browser history could not be sold without the customer’s consent. This was a huge victory for consumer privacy.

The Senate voted last week 50-48 on a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to repeal the FCC’s privacy rules. In a party line 215 to 2015 vote, the Republicans in the House approved this legislation on March 28th.

By using a CRA resolution, the FCC will be prohibited from writing similar rules in the future. And because of the current legal environment, no other federal agency has the authority to protect you against privacy invasions by your ISP, stated the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

How the ISPs Did It

ISPs argue that they want to be treated the same as Google and Facebook who develop customer profiles and use this information to help advertisers.

But Google and Facebook don’t see all the websites that customers visit as an ISP does.

ISPs customarily made their money by charging customers for connectivity. But all that changed, according to Ars Technica’s Jon Brodkin. “Starting in 2013, AT&T charged fiber internet customers at least $29 extra each month unless they opted in to a system that scanned customers’ internet traffic in order to deliver personalized ads.”

And the ISPs spent a lot of money in lobbying members of Congress according to data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The top winners in the Senate include:

Mitch McConnel (R-KY) $251,110
John Thune (R-SD) 215,000
Roy Blunt (R-MO) 185,500
Roger Wicker (R-MS) 151,800
John Cornyn (R-TX) 148,800
Chuck Grassly (R-IA) 132,125

 

Top grossers of ISP lobby money in the House include:

Gregory Walden (R-OR) $155,110
Steve Scalise (R-LA) 121,750
Fred Upton (R-MI) 108,250
John Shimkus (R-IL) 104,425
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) 99,100
Bob Latta (R-OH) 91,000

 

To see what your legislators received from ISP lobbying go to www.FollowTheMoney.org.

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

Unfortunately, not a whole lot. Experts recommend that you download apps that create HTTPS sites.

“ISPs can’t see encrypted traffic, so if you visit an HTTPS site, ISPs will see only the domain (like https://arstechnica.com) rather than each page you visit. But that’s still plenty,” said Dallas Harris, an attorney who specializes in broadband privacy and is a policy fellow at consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge.

“You don’t need to see the contents of every communication” to develop efficient ad tracking mechanisms, she said. “The fact that you’re looking at a website can reveal when you’re home, when you’re not home.”

An ISP might notice that a particular tablet often visits children’s websites. From that, “they can infer that this tablet then belongs to a child” and deliver advertising targeted to kids. “The level of information that they can figure out is beyond what even most customers expect,” Harris said.

So it appears that Congress has made the internet an even more unsafe place than it was before. All I can say is—Be careful out there!

DianeWekler-sml-for-postsDiane Weklar, the Authority on Accelerating Business Growth, is the CEO of the Weklar Business Institute. She is the author of the award winning book, Mastering the Money Maze: 10 Secrets to Winning Business Financing,which is also an Amazon #1 Best Seller. This book provides practical insight to build a successful business and the practical steps to raise capital to help your firm grow. She can be reached at Diane@Weklar.com.

 

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