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How to protect your information online

Apr - 17 - 2017
Need help on how to protect your information?  Contact us!

Need help on how to protect your information? Contact us!

“A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention with the possible exceptions of handguns and Tequila.”  —  Mitch Ratcliffe

Every mistake you’ve ever made online will not only be available to your internet service provider (ISP)   —  it will be available to any corporation or foreign government who wants to see those mistakes.

Thanks to a decision by Congress, ISPs can sell your entire web browsing history to literally anyone without your permission. The only rules that prevented this are all being repealed, and won’t be reinstated any time soon (it would take an act of congress).

ISPs can also sell any information they want from your online activity and mobile app usage  —  financial information, medical information, your children’s information, your social security number  —  even the contents of your emails.

They can even sell your geolocation information. That’s right, ISPs can take your exact physical location from minute to minute and sell it to a third party.

You might be wondering: who benefits from repealing these protections? Other than those four monopoly ISPs that control America’s “last mile” of internet cables and cell towers?

No one. No one else benefits in any way. Our privacy  —  and our nation’s security  —  have been diminished, just so a few mega-corporations can make a little extra cash.

In other words, these politicians  —  who have received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the ISPs for decades  —  have sold us out.

How did this happen?

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) was passed in 1996 to allow Congress to overrule regulations created by government agencies.

Prior to 2017, congress had only successfully used the CRA once. But since the new administration took over in January, it’s been successfully used three times  —  for things like overturning pesky environmental regulations.

Senator Jeff Flake  —  a Republican representing Arizona  —  led the effort to overturn the FCC’s privacy rules. He was already the most unpopular senator in the US. Now he may become the most unpopular senator in US history.

Instead of just blaming Flake, though, let’s remember that every single senator who voted in favor of overturning these privacy rules was a Republican. Every single Democrat and Independent senator voted against this CRA resolution. The final vote was 50–48, with two Republicans abstaining.

You would think that the Senate would heavily discuss such the consequences of such an historic decision. Actually, they only spent 10 minutes debating it.

“Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds.”  —  John Perry Barlow

The CRA resolution also passed in the House of Representatives, where 231 Republicans voted in favor of removing privacy protections against 189 Democrats who voted against it. (Again, not a single non-Republican voted to remove these privacy protections.)

Shortly thereafter, Republican president Donald Trump signed the resolution into law.

So what kind of messed-up things can ISPs now legally do with our data?

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, there are at least five creepy things the FCC regulations would have made illegal. But thanks to the Senate, ISPs can now continue doing these things as much as they want, and it will probably be years before we can do anything to stop them.

  1. Sell your browsing history to basically any corporation or government that wants to buy it
  2. Hijack your searches and share them with third parties
  3. Monitor all your traffic by injecting their own malware-filled ads into the websites you visit
  4. Stuff undetectable, un-deletable tracking cookies into all of your non-encrypted traffic
  5. Pre-install software on phones that will monitor all traffic  —  even HTTPS traffic  —  before it gets encrypted. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have already done this with some Android phones.

So how do we have any hope of protecting our privacy now?

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 91% of adults agree or strongly agree that “consumers have lost control of how personal information is collected and used by companies.”

But we shouldn’t despair. But as the same British Prime Minister who cautioned us to “hope for the best and prepare for the worst” also said:

“Despair is the conclusion of fools.”  —  Benjamin Disraeli in 1883

Well we are not fools. We’re going to take the actions necessary to secure our family’s privacy against the acts of reckless monopolies and their political puppets.

And we’re going to do this using the most effective tools for securing online communication: encryption and VPNs.

Stay tuned!  Each week we will be posting about what you should be doing to stay secure online and what software and apps you can use everyday.

Written by Quincy Larson

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