US ISPs just got one step closer to selling user data

Internet Privacy

We reported a few days ago about a campaign being run by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to stop US congress from repealing FCC privacy protections.

In a quick twist the campaign and US internet privacy in general has just taken a massive blow after the Senate voted 50-48 in favour of repealing the protections.

Worrying times for US online privacy

The original protections were approved back in October 2016 but as of yet have not been put into full action and with the latest vote by the Senate it looks increasingly like these protections will be removed before they even got going.

US internet users should not only be worried by the latest revelations but absolutely petrified as the proposal will not only limit user privacy but it will stop the FCC from creating similar protections ever again.

There is however a small glimmer of hope as the proposal stills needs to make it through Congress. Congress brings in checks and balances and is similar to the House of Lords in the UK, however Congress actually carries power.

With a republican majority in Congress who oppose the privacy protections, the last piece of hope may fade extremely fast and it is likely to pass through Congress just as it passed the Senate.

A further outside chance remains if President Trump decides to veto the vote which would preserve the privacy protections, however if he agrees with the Senate it means user privacy in the US is all but a distant memory.

US Congress

US Congress has the power to stop the madness.

Privacy for sale

Senator Jeff Flake raised the issue along with 23 other republican politicians in what he said was a way to protect consumers from overreaching internet regulation.

The outcome should the regulation pass is that ISPs will be able to sell information on their users and usage without requiring permission.

The scariest of which includes the sale of the history of websites visited but it does not stop there and there are other far and ranging concerns including search hijacking, injecting adverts, installing apps that log what you do on your phone plus much more.

Privacy groups are rightly outraged by this development as the history of internet use can tell companies a lot about a user.

Information such as what time you wake up and check the internet, your health and other habits and interests will all be information that is able to be sold.

As many of us do when we have varying health symptoms we search for the likely diagnosis. Imagine this information is then sold to your insurer, your employer or anyone else with a vested interest in knowing your possible suspicions.

Under current FCC privacy provisions users would have the ability to opt-in or opt-out of such information hawking but if Congress agree with the Senate and overturn these well thought-out privacy protections then user data will essentially be sold without US users knowing about it.

What users can do

The first step is to take part in the EFF’s Don’t Let Congress Undermine Our Online Privacy campaign.

Secondly if the FCC regulations are abolished and this privacy madness goes ahead consumers can protect themselves by using a VPN service that will protect their data as it passes through the internet by encrypting it.

A VPN service from providers such as IPVanish, Overplay or the many others listed in our VPN Comparison Guide will mean that ISPs can not read any of the information you transmit or what websites you visit.

Essentially they won’t have any information on you to sell.

With online privacy becoming a scarce commodity it seems to make sense that all US consumers should take proactive steps to ensure what they do online remains private.

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