Neal Cook, Front Rush
There’s been a lot of talk the past few weeks about President Trump’s repeal of Obama-era broadband policy rules, which were intended to protect consumers from their ISP’s (internet service providers) such as Comcast, Verizon, etc.
This article will break down what is going on now and what has changed.
What law was repealed? And has anything changed yet?
Currently, anytime you surf the web, or use any web-connected apps (such as email, youtube, etc.), your ISP collects data on everything that you do. Since they manage all of your web traffic, they have access to a vast majority of your personal information. This is true for your phone as well.
There are no rules outlining how ISPs can store and sell your personal information to advertisers.
The law, passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2016, requires ISPs to obtain your consent before using precise location, financial information, health information, children’s information and web browsing history for advertising and marketing.
This was to go into effect as early as December of 2017 but has since been repealed, which is a huge loss for those concerned about their internet privacy.
Is there anything my ISP cannot see?
ISP’s know any website that you visit. If the website uses HTTPS encryption (like Front Rush), ISPs can see that you visited the site, but they cannot see anything inside the site you are on.
You can easily see what site is encrypted with HTTPS encryption by looking at the URL bar at the top of your browser. If all you see in the URL is www.website.com, the site is not secure. If all you see is http://website.com, the site is not secure. If you see https//website.com, the site is secure.
You would think that most of the websites you browse are secured. However, you’ll come across a few during the day that are not (visit WedMD, New York Times or Fox News).
Does private browsing help keep my information safe?
Yes, and no. Private browsing prevents your browser from storing your searches and cookies (small data files websites store on your computer). But your ISPs still have access to everything that is not encrypted.
What can I do to keep my data safe?
#1 rule is to make sure that any website you visit, that you don’t want anyone knowing about you, (ie. what you are searching for on webmd.com), is secured with HTTPS.
Those very serious about their data privacy can pay for something called a VPN (virtual private network). VPNs encrypt your data which is shared over the internet and keeps it private by building a secure tunnel between your laptop/smartphone and your ISP, ensuring no one can monitor your online activity.
There are some free VPN services available. But they are not recommended as they are not entirely secure. Paid VPNs generally cost between $5 and $10 per month.