* New bill reverses ISP restrictions imposed last year
* Gives ISPs more freedom to sell your browsing info
* Makes it harder for people to protect their privacy
In an effort to seriously undermine your online privacy, the Senate has voted to effectively roll back previous regulations put in place to prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from profiting off your browsing data.
The new legislation is suspected to be the first of many attempts to “free up” internet restrictions and help ISPs like AT&T and Verizon sell your data to advertisers.
So what does this mean? Essentially, metadata like your search history, app usage and location information will be collected and sold off — meaning your internet service provider is not only making money off your subscription, they’re making money off you.
Data mining is a huge industry, and companies pay top dollar for people’s browsing habits. But there’s a bigger problem than just your privacy being at risk — selling your data to companies can result in consequences that you essentially have no control over. What happens when your ISP sends your fitness app’s health data to insurance companies? Or when they send your credit search queries to potential financial lenders? Metadata is used to build an eerily accurate portrait of who you are, which companies can then take advantage of.
The best way to help protect yourself against these threats to your privacy is to encrypt your network, and the easiest way to do that is to use a virtual private network, or VPN. A VPN masks your IP address and lets you bypass internet censorships. (There are a lot of different VPN services — here’s a list of some of the more popular ones.)
In addition, other steps you can take include sticking to HTTPS-only sites and making an effort not to share sensitive information over public networks. Also, free browser extensions like Privacy Badger help prevent advertisers from tracking you online, which in turn helps speed up page loading times and can help you browse a little safer.
With more privacy rollbacks in the works, knowing and encrypting your online network is becoming more important.