UPDATE, March 29th: Less than a week after the Senate voted to empower internet service providers to freely share private user data with advertisers, the House has weighed in, too. Now, only a signature from the president stands in the way of the repeal.
March 23rd is a day that will go down in history. The US Senate has voted to eliminate broadband privacy rules that would have required ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to get consumers’ explicit consent before selling or sharing web browsing data and other private data with advertisers as well as other companies. Seems that the UK’s Snooper’s Charter was only the beginning of a much more worrying global trend.
ISP now stands for “invading subscriber privacy”
… in the words of senator Ed Markey, a Democrat.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted along party lines to repeal Internet privacy protections that were approved by the Federal Communications Commission just days before Donald Trump won the election.
The rules, which had not yet gone into effect, would have required Internet service providers to get the person’s permission before collecting and sharing personal data on everything from web browsing history to geo-location information.
Providers would also have been required to notify customers about the types of information collected and shared.
But on March 23rd all this turned into a mere dream. The Senate prevents all of these rules from taking effect, unless the House or President Trump decide otherwise. And we strongly doubt the latter would happen.
The repeal happened to avoid “confusion” among people
The Senate measure was introduced two weeks ago by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and 23 Republican co-sponsors. Flake said at the time that he is trying to “protect consumers from overreaching Internet regulation.”
President Trump’s FCC Chairman Ajit Pai argues that consumers would be confused if there are different privacy rules for ISPs than for online companies like Google and Facebook. “American consumers should not have to be lawyers or engineers to figure out if their information is protected” Pai recently declared.
What this could mean to you
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) put together some highly likely and deeply worrying uses that will now be made of US citizens’ data. Among these:
Selling user location and personal information to marketers: this is something that some ISPs already do but hesitate to admit, fearing public reaction. With this vote, companies no longer have to fear that.
Hijacking searches: a search for a particular object may automatically redirected to a company offering that product – a company that paid your ISP for that traffic and which is most likely not offering the best deal.
Inserting ads: what in the past was a nuisance may now become the norm. Ads will probably pop up everywhere (search engines, social media) based on your traffic.
Installing apps on your phone that track you: mobile software such as Carrier IQ can send data on what apps you use and what websites you visit.
Undetectable tracking code: even if you use the browsers’ “incognito” mode, your ISPs will still know where you are going online and when. And will then sell that data to anyone willing to pay what they charge.
If these don’t seem too worrying, because ISPs already had access to our personal data, think about it like this: now it is perfectly legitimate for them to do so.
So let’s imagine this scenario: you are looking for a job and apply on as many company websites as possible. A potential employer can request your ISP to provide them with your browsing history, which will disclose all the other jobs you applied for as well as other online habits you have which you don’t wish to draw attention towards (you know what we’re talking about). This apparently “small” change could cost you the job of your dreams, among other things.
So, what is the best solution?
The Electronic Frontier Foundation says that it is not too late to stop these rules from taking effect. You can call your lawmakers today and tell them to protect your privacy from your ISP.
However, worst-case scenario, ISPs will now be given carte blanche to use their customers’ data as they please.
A VPN such as CyberGhost is the best way to keep your personal data private and protected.
How does CyberGhost work?
The IP address assigned to you by your ISP is replaced with one from CyberGhost, which you will share with other users, so it will be impossible to be associated with you. Your real IP address, the one from your Internet provider, remains hidden and the pages you access only register the IP address we assign you.
Furthermore, thanks to the CyberGhost encryption, the ISP only knows that you connect to a VPN server, but it cannot inspect the traffic (content) itself. You become anonymous. You become untraceable.
Download CyberGhost at this link. You can opt for the free version, but this will imply some waiting time on your behalf, until free user slots are available. A more convenient option is the Premium version of CyberGhost, which gives you access to a lot more features and profiles. Get your subscription from here.