I wrote about the Senate overturning rules that authorized Internet providers to capture our personal information without our permission and sell it to anyone they please. Now the House of Representatives has just followed suit, so unless President Trump vetoes it, it will become law. The White House issued a statement supporting the House’s action and indicating that Trump will sign the legislation.
The overturned rules were created by the Federal Communications Commission in October, requiring broadband providers to get our permission before collecting private data on our online activities and offering it for sale to advertisers.
So, what exactly does this mean? It means whenever you go onto the Internet to do searches, browse or anything at all, your Internet provider will be able to track you, collect that data, and use that information to make money from anyone who wants to buy the information. If you do a search for cancer or another disease, it might be shared with your insurance company. If you go onto an X-rated site, that information could be used to target you with X-rated ads on any of your devices. If you do research on cars, you may now start being inundated with automobile ads or even calls from auto dealers. Just think of it as someone peering over your shoulder whenever you are in front of computer screen or use your phone or tablet.
Now, understand that the regulation that the Senate voted to kill was not to prevent this from being done. It already could be done, but you had to provide permission first. This law now says your permission is not needed and you don’t even have to be informed that it’s being done.
What else does this allow? The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which has been fighting to maintain privacy, offers examples of bad behavior by the providers, which led to this regulation being enacted in the first place. Now that the regulation has been removed, it’s likely each of these activities and more will return.
- Selling your data to marketers
- Hijacking your searches—In 2011, several ISPs were caught red-handed working with a company called Paxfire to hijack their customers’ search queries to Bing, Yahoo!, and Google.
- Snooping through your traffic and inserting ads—ISPs will now have every incentive to snoop through your traffic, record what you’re browsing, and then inject ads into your traffic based on your browsing history. We’re talking about the company that carries all your Internet traffic examining each packet in detail to build up a profile on you, which they can then use to inject even more ads into your browsing experience.
- Pre-installing software on your phone and recording every URL you visit—When you buy a new Android phone, you don’t expect it to come preinstalled with software that logs which apps you use and what websites you visit and sends data back to your ISP. But that’s exactly what was uncovered by a security researcher. The phones had an application, Carrier IQ, that came preinstalled on phones sold by AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. With Carrier IQ, your ISP could see everything you do on your phone, including your address book, texts, email, apps, and photos.
- Injecting undetectable, undeletable tracking cookies in all of your web traffic. Verizon Wireless inserted supercookies into all of its mobile customers’ traffic for several years. Initially, there was no way for customers to turn this “feature” off. It didn’t matter if you were browsing in Incognito or Private Browsing mode, using a tracker-blocker, or had enabled Do-Not-Track: Verizon ignored all this and inserted a unique identifier into all your unencrypted outbound traffic anyway. As a result, anyone—not just advertisers—could track you as you browsed the web.
So why would Congress approve this? Certainly not for our benefit. Perhaps they were influenced by all of the donations they received from the ISPs. Whatever the reason, they voted to do this against strong opposition from their constituents.
Verge publish a list of the 265 representatives who voted to cancel our privacy rights. All received donations from one or more of the providers. From the list, some sold out our rights for just a few thousand dollars.
Following this list are two things you can do to fight back.
Who voted in favor?
US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
What can you do?
So, what can you do about this? You can subscribe to a VPN service for about $5 to $10 per month that will hide your identity so your provider will not know your browsing history. It takes some effort, but here’s a good article on VPN services at PCMag.
Or, if you want to get even, check out www.searchinternethistory.com. It’s raising $1 million to purchase and make public the Internet history of leading Republicans and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) members, beginning with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.