Now Your Internet Provider Can Share Your Web History

As far as our government is concerned, everything you do online can be freely harvested, analyzed, and sold so big business can make a buck by depriving you of your privacy.

Two GoFundMe campaigns have raised more than US$290,000 in an effort to buy the web browsing histories of USA politicians after Congress voted to allow broadband providers to sell customers' personal information without their permission.

Wisconsin public officials are seeking an important block on President Donald Trump's controversial measure, that allows internet service providers like Verizon and AT&T to collect, share and even sell customer's personal data including web browsing history. But what does that really mean?

The legislation signed by the president, in effect, preserves the status quo. Trump signed an executive order to impose additional oversight on government regulations, designating officials within government agencies who will monitor rule-making and identify needed policy changes, he said. The "DuckDuckGo" browser, for example, claims to not track its users, while email services like ProtonMail provide free email services that are encrypted end-to-end. Whether or not you choose to trust United States companies is entirely up to your read of recent American history, but they are undoubtedly better than many. Though it's not ideal, Tor was designed, unlike most other web browsers, specifically for the objective of preserving your privacy while you use the internet.

Many Internet service providers (ISPs) have privacy policies that may cover this type of information.

"I think that all of the local homegrown ISPs have the same desire to keep their client base as secure as possible when it comes to privacy", Weifenberger said.

That information is solid gold to advertisers as it allows them to better target potential consumers. Data sells. As it turns out, ISPs are no different, operating and thriving on much of the same personal information. After all, the VPN provider can see your traffic, and an untrustworthy one can sell your data to a third party just like your ISP can.

"I guarantee you there is not one person, not one voter of any political stripe anywhere in America who asked for this", Stephen Colbert said on "The Late Show" last week. This tool has two shortfalls, however.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) secures and encrypts internet traffic, helping protect users' identity and data by hiding their IP address.

A VPN essentially creates a private path to the internet by first connecting to the VPN and then routing all browsing through the VPN's servers.

Many companies require workers to use VPNs for all work related communications and surfing already, as they don't want their company secrets to be visible to prying ISPs or other eyes. If you live outside the USA, you may have tried using a free one to "dial in" to the U.S. so you could watch the latest House of Cards. Free VPNs actually give you the service in exchange for collecting and sharing (selling) browsing history, thus negating any security benefits. Fortunately, paid options aren't terrifically expensive and tend to be a lot more robust. Did you search out information about a disease you discussed with your physician?

While we all want our privacy protected, the way the FCC under previous leadership went about this seems to be the point of contention.

Unfortunately, it may not be as easy as selected a VPN provider and then doing all of your future web browsing on it.

  • Arturo Norris