Near the end of President Obama’s term last October, his Federal Communications Commission instituted controversial new policies that tightened some internet privacy laws. These regulations hadn’t yet taken effect, so the Republican-controlled Congress recently struck them down, and President Trump signed this measure into law.
Internet service providers (ISPs) often sell data like browsing and online purchasing history for advertising purposes. The FCC polices this new law killed would’ve forced the ISPs to let their customers know what information is being collected, how it’s being used, and on some cases, obtain customers’ permission before using their data at all.
While everyone values privacy, many Republicans objected to these new rules for a variety of reasons. First, they placed much stronger restrictions on ISPs than on companies like Facebook and Google. As Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment told Breitbart, “It’s insane that Google and Facebook have a near duopoly in the advertising game and they have less stringent rules in terms of what they can do with your private information.” In other words, Kerpen makes the point that the new rules Obama instituted stacked the deck for Google and Facebook. Kerpen went on to say, “This whole fight against the ISPs is a sideshow, by far the biggest threat to consumer privacy is Google that has trackers on over 60 percent of all websites. Google owns YouTube, and they have trackers everywhere, and they’ve shifted the focus of the debate to issues that don’t regulate Google.”
Another objection to the rules was that while there’s no doubt ISP’s collect and sell consumer data, the data is out there anyway. We live in a world where accounts must be created on virtually any website we engage, so in that way alone, we’re granting permission for our data to be peddled. What’s more, even some so-called privacy companies now offer free accounts and turn around and sell the data they collect. The bottom line is, everyone has a digital footprint, and if you have a mobile phone and a computer, your information is “out there.”
Nevertheless, everyone wants to protect their privacy as much as they can, and while there’s no way to be completely secure, Wes Thompson, CEO of tep.io from Birmingham, Alabama says there are steps consumers can take steps that help.
• Use two-factor authentication (2FA) to secure online accounts
• Use a virtual private network (VPN) to surf the web especially on public wifi networks. I recommend Cloak, which also works for your smartphone.
• Use a password manager that will generate strong passwords and keep them for you. I recommend Dashlane.
• Do not fill out all of your information on social media platforms.
• Password protect your computer and all smartphone / tablet devices
• Use false answers when setting up security questions
• Contact your ISP and tell them you want to opt out of ad-targeting programs
• Opt Out of Google Ads
• Turn on the private browsing feature when surfing the web on your computer and your smartphone / tablet
• Clear or reset the ad ID on your smartphone
• Turn off location-based ads on your iPhone
• Turn off all location services on your smartphone until you need them, then turn them off again when you don’t.
Happy and safe browsing to everyone!