April 10, 2017

Your Browsing History May Be Up For Sale Soon. Here’s What You Need To Do

Hey guys, do you ever know what does the word ‘Privacy’ mean? I am talking about Internet Privacy. Everybody has their own privacy and what does your privacy mean to you?


While you think of it, don’t forget it is a human right and so, consider your response carefully. You might value it a great deal, or you might figure that it’s no big issue because you don’t do anything wrong. Privacy might be paramount to you, it’s a commodity to a vast number of services. However, how much you value your privacy as a conception, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can soon put a price tag on it without your consent. Yes, it’s true.

What Actually Happened?

During Barack Obama’s time in the White House, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that ISPs must obtain the permission of their users before selling personal data on. And now, that bill will be repealed, pending a virtually inevitable signature from the present President Donald Trump. The Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution was passed in the White House and the ISPs are just waiting for the final word from the President.

White House To Decide About Browsing History For Sale

A US House committee is set to vote today on whether to kill privacy rules that would prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from selling users’ web browsing histories and app usage histories to advertisers. Planned protections, proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would have forced ISPs to get people’s consent before hawking their data are now at risk.

The Broadband Consumer Privacy Proposal would likely have come into play by the end of this year. But if it’s wiped from the slate, providers can carry on collecting and selling your information as they please. Of course your data is being sold on already; namely to advertisers, so your internet experience is a uniquely personal one. Personalized advertising space can command big bucks.

What Does This Mean For You?

We have been warned for years about the browsing history and its leak. The above decision feels like a step towards that. Though the significance might not be so evident. Do you know that Google collects data all the time Facebook knows so much about you, it can even identify what you look like? Don’t worry. They’re pretty easy to escape. Don’t want Facebook to know your interests? Don’t ‘like’ anything. Worried Google has a monopoly on what you enjoy? Switch to a private tool.

Congress clears way for ISPs

But escaping the watchful eye of your ISP is like Winston Smith’s struggle against Big Brother. You might feel assured that going on a site using HTTPS means a certain level of encryption; that’s true, but it only makes it impossible for third-parties to note down your passwords. An ISP can still see the domain you’re visiting.

What Kind Of Personal Data Do Internet Service Providers Want To Use?

Your web browsing patterns contain a treasure trove of data, including your health concerns, shopping habits and visits to porn sites. ISPs can find out where you bank, your political views, and sexual orientation simply based on the websites you visit. The fact that you’re looking at a website at all can also reveal when you’re at home and when you’re not.

If you ask the ISPs, it’s about showing the user more relevant advertising. They argue that web browsing history and app usage should not count as “sensitive” information.

Your Browsing history is for sale

How Could ISPs Use Your Personal Data?

They sell it to advertisers. Having all the data relating to your browsing behavior allows them to offer highly personalized targeted advertising at a premium to big brands, which are injected into your browsing experience. AT&T already tried such a program but killed it just before the FCC introduced the new privacy rules.

Meanwhile, Verizon attempted to insert undetectable “supercookies” into all of its mobile customers’ traffic, which allowed them to track all their browsing behavior – even if a web user was browsing in incognito mode or clearing their cookies and history. The company was sued for $1.35m by the FCC for not getting customer permission to track them.

What Can You Do About It?

Take sensible precautions against search engines tracking you. Manage your Facebook privacy settings because details collected from there can be used to customize adverts all over the web, for instance. Use HTTPS whenever you can, of course, but this won’t stop ISPs snooping. Check the Terms and Conditions of your ISP because some may offer a way to opt-out.

Repealing the bill leaves a lot of ambiguity in relation to Title II, Section 22 of the Communications Act. This was written in 1996 to cater for telephonic services, so it’s had to be updated to include specifications about the internet. Dallas Harris, a Legal and Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge, said:

“It’s just not clear what information [ISPs are] going to require an opt-in for and what information they’re going to require an opt-out for. That will all be up to the ISP to determine what they feel they need to get opt-in for as opposed to opt-out.”

How To Protect Yourself From The Prying Eyes Of Your ISP


There are a lot of reasons to want to anonymize your presence on the web, and not all of them are nefarious or illicit. If you want to stop your ISP from potentially selling your personal info here are a few things you can do.

1. Use ToR: We’ve written about ToRseveral times at TechRepublic, and with good reason: It works. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to set up or get used to, though. One more reason not to rely on ToR for daily browsing is that lots of websites block ToR traffic because it’s impossible to monetize.

2. Use a VPN: Virtual private networks are sort of like ToR, in that they relay your traffic through a bunch of servers before spitting you out at your destination. The free ones aren’t that good, however, and the good ones are far from free. Expect slower browsing speeds too: All that rerouting takes precious milliseconds.

3. Consider local ISPs: Some of the biggest lobbyists for the repeal of regulations protecting consumer data are ISPs like Comcast and Verizon—they stand to make billions in targeted ad deals. Some small-scale local ISPs have said they won’t collect or sell data, so take a look at them if you’re looking for a new provider.

4. Research: If you’re curious about your ISP’s position on data gathering look into it. Call, email, or check out their website and if you don’t find an explicit statement saying they don’t collect or sell data it’s safe to assume they will.

The safest way to browse the web is, unfortunately, not to do it. In today’s age that’s practically impossible, so until internet traffic is safe you’re going to be hard pressed to find easy ways to protect yourself.

To mask all of your browsing behavior you can use a Virtual Private Network VPN service (which incurs a subscription cost) or try using Tor. These encrypt all communications, so your ISP can see you’re using a VPN, but not which domains you’re visiting. Tor, meanwhile, masks your IP address, so traffic only displays as coming from an exit node. Whichever VPN service you go for, you can rest assured that you’re doing all you can to stay private.

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