Just a few weeks ago, I mentioned that using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help keep your Internet Service Provider (ISP) from spying on your activities and selling some of the information to others. It is just one good reason to use VPN but many users do so just to prevent their ISP from tracking their movements.
This week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has made an official proposal and voted to start regulating just how the Internet Service Providers are allowed to handle user privacy and personal online data. Hallelujah!
New FCC Proposal
In any case, if you are one of those individuals that are bothered by ISPs tracking your online surfing and selling it to the highest bidder, this move by the FCC, if passed, should be a welcome ruling.
We all know that websites, especially the social websites we visit, track our movements in many cases as evidenced by the cookies they place on your computer. This, however, is usually something you are aware of, and you have probably provided permission. In addition, you may choose to change the websites you visit but that is not always the case for your ISP.
Your ISP is also collecting information about your every move, and not just for PCs, but for tablets and smartphones as well. Every program you download and every site you visit, even the applications you use, may all be recorded by your ISP.
If the device you are using is a mobile device, your ISP is capable of tracking your every movement. According to Tom Wheeler, the Chairman of the FCC, “…even if your data is encrypted, your ISP can piece together significant amounts of information about you – including private information such as chronic medical condition or financial problems all based on online activity.”
Is This Just Another Conspiracy Theory?
No, this is not some crazy internet conspiracy, but a reality. Most people have limited choices when selecting an ISP and once you subscribe to one you usually do not have the ability to choose what they do or not do. This is one of the reasons I wrote the article on VPNs last month.
Tom Wheeler claims that all the information collected by the phone company about your telephone usage has long been protected information and there is no reason that should not hold true for ISPs.
Under his proposals, ISPs would still be able to use information about where you want to go on the internet as well as other information important to the ISP’s service but consistent with customer expectations. All other information would have to fall under an “Opt-in” consent.
The new regulations would prevent ISPs from sharing your information like name, location or the sites you visit to others without your consent. They would have to make this disclosure, in plain language, how data is collected and how it is shared. It will also have to explain how any outside firms would use the information.
Remember, this proposal only addresses the ISPs. It has no bearing on companies like Facebook, Apple or Google. They will be excluded from this ruling. So, the use of VPNs may still benefit you, but the majority of users will have greater privacy protection against ISPs than ever before. To help put this in prospective, just last month the FCC imposed a $1.35 million fine against Verizon Wireless for using technology that allowed marketers to track your web browsing so they could provide more targeted advertising. They used “super-cookies” that were hidden bits of code that could not be easily erased when your browsing history was cleared. Now Verizon will have to generate an Opt-In policy in order to collect this data.
Consumers should have an “expected” degree of privacy and this new ruling is certainly a step in the right direction. Additional information can be found at this article at the Huffington Post .