Congress Just Killed Internet Privacy. Here’s How to Protect Yourself.

All your data will be sold to the highest bidder in 3... 2...

March 29, 2017 9:00 am

Ever feel like you’ve lost control? It’s appropriate to say that’s how the vast majority of the Internet feels this week.

As of Tuesday, both houses in Congress voted to shoot down a set of Internet privacy protections put in place during the final months of the Obama administration. The repeal — which will be signed by President Trump in the coming days — aggressively rolls back consumer control of how ISPs use the data they collect.

Nutshell: broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast will no longer need to ask for your permission to sell your browsing data, which encompasses all sorts of sensitive info that includes but is not limited to financial and health information, location data and app usage. In a world where — according to Pew Research Center — 74% of Internet users say it’s “very important” that they be in control of who can get information about them, the gravity of this landmark vote cannot be understated.

Here’s the fundamental problem with ISPs: They know everything you do online. Says former FCC counselor Gigi Sohn: “They know every website you visit, how long and during what hours of the day you visit websites, your location, and what device you are using.” Left unchecked, ISPs will be allowed to sell that information to the highest bidder — and trust there are all kinds of data-mining companies and third-party marketing firms who’d love a peek at your wants, desires and fears.

So what can you do?

Use a VPN, or virtual private network. All data traveling through your computer, phone or tablet and a dedicated VPN server would be securely encrypted. Think of it as an alternative route for your online traffic. Choosing a provider, however, can feel like finding a needle in a haystack — we recommend checking sources like New Atlas and Lifehacker for the scoop.

And if you want to be vocal about it, and you should, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has made it simple enough to to contact your local representative. Or you can purchase the internet history of the lawmakers who voted the rollback in effect.

Your other option would be to throw all your electronic devices over the bridge and bury your head in the ground.

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