A VPN Alone Won't Fix Congress Selling Your Privacy Down River

A spokesman for the cable industry said many ISPs have no plans to step on their customer's privacy, using a set of voluntary set of rules that limit them selling or sharing data.

As The Verge points out, "if you're paying Verizon to find out which sites Paul Ryan visited last month, that's pretty clearly individual information, and pretty clearly illegal to sell". "For example, in a recent simple experiment that postdoc Philipp Winter performed, web requests from Tor exit relays to the Alexa top 1,000 websites traversed more than 350 Internet service providers considering the DNS lookups from these exit relays, the traffic from these exit nodes traverses an additional 173 Internet service providers".

"I would recommend you do some cursory level research in terms of reputation [and] how long they've been around", Arora said, "And when you sign up, read the fine print".

However, you can still go dark, if you don't want big telecom peering into your private life. "Regardless of the legal status of the FCC's broadband privacy rules, we remain committed to protecting our customers' privacy and safeguarding their information because we value their trust".

What's more, there appears to be little movement on an Obama-era push for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights that would have given Americans greater ability to see and control which companies collected their data, an effort that seemed to slow in the latter part of the last administration. The FTC favors this approach, although ISP's could simply ignore the FCC recommendation.

Our first recommendation is the best one: pay for a VPN service. Your browsing habits can still be seen by the VPN service-and law enforcement, if it comes to that-but you'll be safe from a spying ISP since it will see your traffic as coming from a random server instead of your house.

"The further along toward being a computer scientist you have to be to use a VPN, the smaller a portion of the population we're talking about that can use it", said Ernesto Falcon, a legislative counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which opposed the bill, according to Reuters.

"If you want to keep your browsing data private, you can use a service called an anonymizer to make your internet data untraceable".

Similarly, a VPN doesn't stop a company from using on-device snoopware to track you (remember Carrier IQ?). These networks are often used to connect to a secure business network and are also used in countries with internet censorship such as China and Turkey in order to access restricted sites.

There is some bad news, too.

Protected data includes a customer's web-browsing history, which in turn can be used to discover other types of information, including health and financial data.

"A VPN won't protect you from all of the creepy stuff that ISPs will be able to do", Evan Greer at Fight for the Future said in an interview with Gizmodo, noting that ISPs can still install secret traffic software and inject ads into web traffic when a VPN is in place.

  • Arturo Norris