Bill to Kill the Internet User Privacy of web browsing history
US politicians voted to kill privacy rules designed to prevent ISPs from selling their subscribers’ web browsing history and app usage histories to advertisers. Such rules were scheduled to come into effect by the end of this year and force ISPs to get people’s consent before hawking their data.
Without these protections, the Internet service providers will be able to track browsing behavior of their users and sell information about it to advertisers without consent. We are talking about a huge treasure trove of personal information, including health concerns, shopping habits and visits to adult websites. Lots of secondary information can also be obtained this way as well – for instance, based on the websites you visit, the ISPs can find out where you bank, your political views and sexual orientation. Moreover, the very fact that a person looking at any website can also reveal when they are at home and when they are not.
Many argued that repealing the privacy rules would be anti-competitive and provide more power to a handful of business entities, let alone the fact that Americans already pay much more for broadband than Europeans due to “monopolistic, anti-competitive practices”.
On the other hand, those supporting repealing the privacy rules claimed that this move can level the playing field for ISPs willing to get into the advertising business, as it will allow them to show users more relevant advertising and offers. As a result, the local companies would get a better return on the investment they have made in infrastructure. Apparently, they don’t consider web browsing history and app usage “sensitive” information.
However, privacy campaigners claim that the Internet service providers should be treated differently from such advertising services as Google and Facebook, because consumers usually have only one choice of broadband provider but can choose not to use Facebook or Google’s search engines and use many tools to block their tracking on other parts of the web. As for ISPs tracking, it is much harder to prevent – through using a VPN service (for money) or Tor. In either way, browsing gets more complicated.
So how can users protect their web browsing history?
You need to encrypt all your internet traffic. Websites which are already encrypted – marked out with HTTPS at the beginning of the URL – but ISPs would still be able to see which websites you have visited, just not the individual pages.
To mask all of your browsing behavior you can use a VPN service (which incurs a subscription cost).