S.J. Res. 34 (Browsing History for Sale)

Late, again, I know. Too late to save “privacy,” too late for the Internet, too late for freedom…or is it?

A little background first — last year, the FCC implemented a new set of rules, intended to protect the privacy of the average American, preventing Internet Service Providers from selling data and browsing history collected from their customers. However, in the last week or so, Congress voted to repeal those rules.

Before jumping into it, let’s step back for a second — Congress voted to repeal these rules, intended simply to protect the common man. One may argue that, if it is possible to protect oneself, or even opt-out of such a program, it must not be a big deal. Why should we have to go to such measures, though? Personally, I was always taught that the government’s job was to represent the people — to protect its constituents — especially our Congressmen and women, who are directly elected. According to the US Government’s own website, visitthecapitol.gov, Congress “serves as the voice of the people…in the federal government.” Why, then, is Congress taking actions that not only weren’t requested by the people, but were widely opposed by them? (I highly doubt that any individual contacted their representative to let them know that they enthusiastic about private companies selling their data)

Our ISPs can be trusted, though, right?

If history is any indicator, ISPs will (continue to) take advantage of (what we’ll assume was a) lapse in legislational judgement. In the past, the companies who provide our home phone, TV, internet access, and in some cases, cell service, have made the most of us. They’ve hijacked our searches, redirecting search terms to a third party, who, if they’d been paid by the brand we were searching for, redirected us to their website, instead of showing the usual results. They’ve injected personalized ads into our browsers, by recording our history, using it to jam relevant advertisements into the websites we viewed. They’ve pre-installed software on our smartphones, using it to log even our encrypted activity. They’ve injected undetectable, unremovable cookies into all of our HTTP traffic, even when we selected privacy-specific options they offered, giving all of our traffic a unique ID, enabling anyone to track you. They already sell your data to marketers, and will continue to do so now that the FCC’s rules won’t be enacted.

So it is too late, then?

No, not just yet. By encrypting your internet traffic, you can prevent your ISP from collecting and recording all of your data. Encryption can be achieved in one of three primary ways — using a VPN, Tor, or sticking to websites that use HTTPS encryption (you’ll see HTTPS in the url). However, it’s important to keep in mind that, while the specific traffic is obscured, your ISP will know how it’s being done, and this could potentially make you a target (Refer to my article on Rule 41).

Side Note: Once again didn’t have time to make the edits I wanted to (including a better title), so this draft sat for awhile, and eventually I just decided to publish it as-is.