How to protect your data from being sold by your ISP
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Photo Credit: Colin Anderson / Getty Images Israel)

This is bad news for privacy advocates

Nobody wants their personal life splattered all over the internet. However, it seems like the US Senate thinks that this might not be such a bad option. In case you missed the news last week, the legislators in the Senate voted on a law that will allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to collect your data and sell it to whomever they please.

As of now, our last hope is the House, but somehow, my Spidey senses are tingling and are telling me that even the House Republicans will allow this draconian new rule to go through in the name of public security and the fight against terrorism.

I don’t do anything weird on the internet, so I don’t care

Just because you have never hacked somebody, stalked anyone, or monitored the online activities of anybody, doesn’t mean that the internet or evil individuals owe you any favors. They will exploit you every time they get an opportunity to do so. It is unfortunate but is also the unfortunate reality.

The question isn’t about weird or normal activities on the internet; the question is why a certain service provider is allowed to be all up in our business? Your ISP doesn’t care about porn, adultery, or kinks; the only thing it cares about is making money off of you by selling your data to advertisers.

Views of the senior senator on privacy protection

“Your home broadband provider can know when you wake up each day—either by knowing the time each morning that you log on to the Internet to check the weather/news of the morning, or through a connected device in your home,” stated Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) during a debate before the Senate vote. “And that provider may know immediately if you are not feeling well, assuming you decide to peruse the Internet like most of us to get a quick check on your symptoms. In fact, your broadband provider may know more about your health and your reaction to illness than you are willing to share with your doctor.”

There is so much that someone can learn about us by looking through our search history. We turn to Google, Web M.D., and other resources whenever we have a question pertaining to our decision making or thinking. Google has built a global business on knowing what people are looking for and serving them ads. Your ISP understands this and so does the Senate. They are just trying to ignore this fact.

How to protect your personal information and browsing history from ISPs?

One word – ENCRYPTION! This is your best bet to protect your browsing history from your ISP. There are various services on the internet that let you encrypt your data and internet traffic so unauthorized people and organizations cannot trace or track your browsing history or link it back to your IP address. There are three primary ways to encrypt your data, so you can have the best online protection coupled with anonymity: VPN services, Tor & HTTPS. While not a perfect solution, it helps to cloud the vision of anyone watching, making their job harder. Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Technologist Jeremy Gillula explains that “Your ISP can see that you’re using a VPN or Tor but that’s all they’ll see.”

A VPN might be a more secure option since it encrypts your data – Tor doesn’t – and you don’t need to worry about the person operating the exit node – which is the exact case in Tor. On the flip side, each VPN is operated by a single provider while Tor is a distributed network that tries to preserve anonymity by routing traffic through a series of relays. Another issue is that VPNs are unregulated and could theoretically sell that data off the same way. So, while choosing a VPN you have to make sure that the service you are trusting with your data is not be based in any of the 14 eyes countries, especially the US, because VPN providers based in the US could be pressured to share or hand over users’ data to ISPs or government agencies.

It is worth considering looking at providers like PureVPN who are based in countries like Hong Kong or Ivacy VPN which is a Singapore-based VPN provider and has a no-log policy. Switzerland is another good option due to their privacy laws.

Talking about the last method mentioned above; HTTPS Everywhere browser extension provides users a secure connection to a particular website, which lets you know whether your connection to a particular web site is encrypted or not. Your ISP can’t see what you do on an HTTPS-enabled website. Your ISP knows when you visit https://google.com, but it doesn’t know what you searched on Google if HTTPS is enabled.

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