This past week our federal congress decided to roll back protections on privacy on the Internet, and open the floodgates to our personal habits being bought and sold. They did this through a repeal of an FCC privacy rule that required ISP’s to get your permission before selling your internet usage data. You may be asking why this is a big deal, since it seems like our privacy on the internet is already compromised? Unlike sharing your data with Apple or Google or Amazon, your ISP is mostly hidden to you. In our neck of the woods Comcast and Century Link are the two monopolies in the Cable and DSL world. You sign up with them to provide you a connection to the internet, and then you forget about them.
Previously, they were prohibited from collecting information about what you did on the internet, unless they expressly asked for your permission. You could imagine a similar scenario with the electric company. You don’t want the electric company selling data about when you turn your lights on and off to the highest bidder. To most people, that type of information is an invasion of your privacy. It’s no one’s business what you’re doing with your internet service or your electrical service unless you’re doing something wrong. However, selling that information has become a big deal, and it’s the motivation behind the removal of privacy protections. At least with Google and Apple you’re made fully aware that they may use your information, and you give them permission.
Therefore, last night I purchased a personal VPN product to use on my devices. A VPN is a way to mask the sites that you are visiting from your ISP by using a third-party server as a proxy of your internet traffic. There are multiple solutions out there, and I’m evaluating one of the bigger ones right now to see how it performs. So far it’s worked as expected, and I feel like my little personal protest is the least I can do to keep my life a bit more in my control.
It’s scary that my friend living in China and I now have something in common in our need to hide our internet habits from others (in his case the government, and in mine corporations). This isn’t something I expected to have to ever do in the US.