Digital rights organisation the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) which VPNCompare support this week published a list of five incredibly scary things that ISPs in the US could do if congress repeals FCC privacy protections.
Privacy was bolstered in the US late last year when the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) brought in new rules that gave US citizens greater protection of their online privacy.
Members of congress want to remove those rules which would allow ISPs free reign on what to do with users’ private data, much of which is personal and includes browsing habits resulting in a massive violation of user online privacy.
The EFF summarised five bone chilling possibilities should the protections be removed.
Data gets sold to marketers
A user’s ISP is the gateway to the internet which means all activity passes through it.
Every thought a user has, every search they make and everything and anything that passes through the internet goes via a users’ ISP.
Due to this ISPs hold a goldmine of information about their users and to marketing companies this information can be invaluable.
The sale of such information could be a massive revenue stream to ISPs.
The EFF claim that ISPs are already selling this information because the FCC rules haven’t yet come into force but if they’re repealed before that point then users could see their data being sold forever more.
When a user makes use of a search engine such as Google or Bing ISPs have in the past been known to hijack these sessions by monitoring search terms.
Take for example a user searching for the term “Ford”. If the ISP or a company employed by them have a business relationship with Ford as soon as the term Ford is entered into a search box then the ISP hijack the session and take the user directly to the Ford website.
This cuts out any search engine results allowing the user to select a site to visit, instead this is bypassed and they’re taken to a site who is paying to have users pushed to their service.
Injecting adverts based on what you look at
Continuing with the theme of making extra money ISPs could in future and have done in the past inject adverts based on what type of websites you visit and what you do online.
Similar to when you look at an item on Amazon and don’t purchase it they often send you an email about that item later to entice you to purchase.
However ISPs have would have a record of your entire web history and your likes and dislikes and you would be targeted with injected ads anywhere in your browsing session.
Apps installed on your phone that log what websites you visit
It’s expected these days that when you buy a new phone there will be a ton of apps already pre-installed, often many that you don’t need or want.
If congress removes protections in place users could see pre-installed apps that record every website they visit and the apps they use. This information would then be sent back to their SP.
With a pre-installed app it will even be possible for a users’ ISP to know what secure websites they visited.
Inject undeletable cookies
We’re all used to the idea of cookies storing little bits of information on our systems but at least we can delete them if we wish.
If privacy protections are removed users could see super cookies installed that are impossible to get rid of.
What you can do
The EFF have publicised these issues to raise awareness.
If you’re concerned about the impending privacy issues then take a look at the Don’t let Congress Undermine Our Online Privacy campaign to find out what you can do to stop these possibilities becoming a reality.