In shocking turn of events, the US senate rules in favor of ISPs in the new broadband privacy rules, authorizing them to sell their customers’ data to advertisers. In other words, American internet users have absolute no say in matters concerning their own privacy!
The new broadband privacy rules overturn a previous rule set by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) under the Obama rule. The previous ruling banned any such activity – rightfully – in the greater interest of internet users in the US.
Even though there are still several legal obstacles to overcome, ISPs at least for now, are in the clear. As per the new broadband privacy rules, the ISPs operating in the US are free to sell their customers’ data. And they no longer require any pre or post approval.
Internet users in the US already had several reasons to believe that ISPs were collecting information like their browsing history, health and app usage data. Now, the new broadband privacy rules allow ISPs and cellular service providers to earn an easy buck by selling user data, as pointed out by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). If that was not horrifying enough, the Democratic senator has clearly stated that ISPs are “invading subscriber privacy”, which says a lot.
Analyzing the Repercussions of Broadband Privacy Rules
Now the real question here is what this essentially means for the average internet user in the land of the free? Taking into account how internet users were paying little attention to online security and anonymity as it is, the new broadband privacy rules come as a blow to those who are not as well aware as those that emphasize on protecting oneself online at all times.
Even though people have gradually become more aware about the present online security situation, it has not been enough to ensure that the new broadband privacy rules were never proposed in the first place.
Considering what is at stake here, and how much data ISPs already have on us, it will not come as a surprise if in the long run, the number of cyberattacks increase by leaps and bounds. Monitoring activities and data theft will rise significantly, as if they were already not a menace.
With gadgets, households and even cars being connected to the internet as part of the IoT (the Internet of Things), it is not that hard to imagine how deadly a cyberattack could possibly be if things turn for the worst; which they will, as history suggests.
How To Protect User Data
As grim as the situation may seem, internet users can still protect their data from being collected and their privacy from being violated. Keeping in mind the latest broadband privacy rules, privacy advocates are already advising internet users to bolster internet security by using a VPN.
This sellout of your privacy to Big Telecom makes it essential to use a VPN. https://t.co/QW8ULAbNob
— Dan Gillmor (@dangillmor) March 23, 2017
Basically, people, from now on, your *full* browsing history will be sold to whomever. Use a (non-free) VPN if you don't already do so. https://t.co/uld8SiXfVR
— Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) March 23, 2017
There is a pretty good reason why privacy advocates recommend using a VPN to combat this legal agreement to mass surveillance. VPNs essentially allow users to browse as they see fit, without having to worry about being monitored. With features like military-grade encryption, Internet Kill Switch, IPv6 leak protection, secure DNS and multiple protocols to choose from, internet users can effectively overcome this obstacle with ease.
Mehmood Hanif, Brand Strategist at PureVPN made it clear how internet users have in fact not taken this ruling lightly. He shared some key insights about the recent turn of events and how PureVPN’s sales increased by 33% within 6 hours of the news breaking. Live chat queries also increased considerably, focusing majorly on encryption, privacy and online protection also receiving a remarkable boost.
If that does not portray the severity of the situation, the fact that there are elaborate discussions taking place on reddit regarding the senate’s vote on broadband privacy rules, and how one can protect user data illustrates why it is important for every internet user, not just in the US, to take matters into their own hands when it comes to staying secure, private and anonymous online.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
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