Farewell privacy! Since last week, US Senators voted to put an end to the privacy rules implemented by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). A vote that could have irreversible consequences for Internet users in the US. Indeed, with ISPs allowed to sell users data, it's another hard-hit to people's privacy. But not all hope is lost yet!
ISPs allowed to sell users data, without their consent
First of all, a little bit of history. In October 2016, the FCC adopted privacy rules that prevented ISPs from sharing the browsing history of their users without their prior consent. And the FCC went further by preventing ISPs from sharing users' personal information with advertisers and third parties.
Comcast, Verizon and AT&T hoped they would be able to share, but most importantly to sell, their data. And to use it to deliver targeted ads. But last year was a victory of privacy over corporate interests. And a victory from the Democrats over the Republicans.
Despite the adoption, the American regulator and the ISPs kept fighting over these new rules for months. And in their battle against the FCC, American ISPs had the support of Donald Trump. Therefore, as soon as he took office, he named a fierce opponent of net neutrality as president of the FCC.
Furthermore, to override the FCC decision, US senators have been able to count on the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA allows the Senate and the House of Representatives to overturn federal regulations issued by government agencies. And to cancel them by issuing a joint resolution of disapproval. A power that is not without risk. Since what is defeated by the CRA can't be undone. Therefore the FCC won't be able to revisit these rules in the future and adopt new rules of strict privacy protection.
All that's missing now is the vote of the House for this resolution to be definitively endorsed. And only the President of the United States can veto it, which seems as unlikely as the existence of unicorns.
Protection of privacy VS. business
For Senator Jeff Flake, who is behind the resolution, this decision will “protect consumers from over-regulation of the Internet”. And I couldn't agree more with his statement. Because we must have an open Internet and governments/corporations must respect Net neutrality.
This resolution is a direct attack on consumer rights, on privacy, on rules that afford basic protection against intrusive and illegal interference with consumers’ use of social media sites and websites that often they take for granted.Senator Richard Blumenthal
However, I don't see how his resolution will “enable consumers to make informed choices about whether and how their data can be shared.” Indeed, the term “choice” is surprising. Since ISPs will no longer have to ask their customers for permission to sell their data… And US internet users are clearly the losers in this deal.
If these rules are reversed, the FCC will have to issue new confidentiality rules for ISPs. And it is likely that the new rules will be similar to the old ones but without restricting the sharing of the web browsing history. Which is what the ISPs want as a priority!
This is bad news for US consumers who see their data sold again to the highest bidder. And it doesn't augur well for the Net neutrality.
Indeed, if you read here and there about this subject, you'll see how worried the blogosphere is. Both in the US and abroad. Because this could have implication outside the US in the future. And Amercian users can see their government is doing nothing to protect their privacy. Even worse, their government take action against their own interests!
So if you're an American citizen, take a moment to call your senators and representative right now. Because there’s a lot at stake in this fight. And the previous FCC privacy rules congress is trying to kill would protect your privacy.
ISPs privacy intrusion examples from a not so distant past…
Indeed, with new rules, ISPs could reinstate some disturbing practices:
- Sell your data to marketers: Your location, demographics, and browsing history…
- Hijack your searches: Looking for a computer? Then your ISP redirects you to one of his partners, and not to the search result page…
- Snoop through your traffic and insert ads: Targeted ads based on your profile from your online activity…
- Install software on your device and record your activity: To log which apps you use and what websites you visit and sends data back to your ISP…
- Inject tracking super-cookies in your traffic: Your ISP insert an ID to all your traffic, to track you more easily, like identification in Nazi camps…
Don't let them take away your privacy
Fortunately, there's a way to protect your privacy online. And I'm not talking about private browsing of course. I'm talking about real anonymous browsing! And the only way to surf anonymously is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
But what’s a VPN? It’s a subscription based software which protects your privacy when surfing. And it keeps your data safe through encryption and security protocols. Therefore, websites and third parties (ISP, government, hackers) can't monitor your activity. In addition, it hides your IP address with the address of their server, so websites can’t track your actual location.
And once correctly set up, all your traffic will get through the VPN and your ISP won't be able to see anything. Because the VPN encrypts all your data.
While you can easily find VPN services online, you must select one that hide your traffic from your ISP. And if you're wondering which VPN service to choose, then take a look on the list below. Indeed, with these VPNs your privacy will be safe. And even if ISPs allowed to sell users data, they'll only get encrypted useless data!
This was my guide: ISPs allowed to sell users data: Brace yourself USA! Stay tuned for more articles coming soon.