An ongoing source of havoc among American internet users, the new FCC broadband rules are still encountering extreme criticism. The majority of support for the rules comes from congressional officials, who overturned the previously existing broadband rules and thereby gave unjustified favor to internet service providers.
The new FCC rules are killing net neutrality, and they are also granting ISPs the ability to sell their customers’ data without asking users. By comparison, the former rules proposed in Obama’s era restricted any such sale in order to preserve the interests of U.S web users.
American citizens now have no legal right to inquire or ask for their privacy. But for internet service providers, it is easier for them to sell users’ data and benefit from it. Granted, prior to the implementation of these rules, ISPs did track American citizens, but they limited the information they targeted to browsing history and app data usages. Now ISPs can track the websites they visit, the time they spend there, and when they visit it.
What Were the Previous Broadband Rules?
The broadband rules that the U.S. Congress overturned had the following set of stipulations:
- Internet service providers must be clear about the customer information they are collecting. Also, they must tell users the intended use of their data and to whom they will transfer the data.
- They must not offer low prices for lower privacy measures; for example, a cheap pricing plan if a customer allows his data tracking.
- The ISPs are required to get customer permission before getting their personal data. Here, the FCC has categorized the data that is considered “sensitive”. Such data includes financial credentials and medical information.
- To protect this information, internet providers are directed to take appropriate security measures. Yet in a situation of any major breach, ISPs need to tell involved parties and affected customers within a period of one week.
- A notice was issued (no actual rule yet suggested) that the practice of compelled arbitration, or something which restricts the legal means users have for redress to firms’ internal processes, would soon be inspected as well.
Analyzing Impacts of New Broadband Rules
Prior to the implementation of these new broadband laws, most web users didn’t concern themselves too much about privacy matters. However, these controversial laws have created annoyance among privacy advocates, some of whom have raised criticism that’s grabbed the attention of common internet users.
Even so, many individuals remain unaware of the impact these laws could have on their online privacy and security. Now when ISPs could sell users’ personal data, it is more likely that web users can get tracked by advertisers across sites they visit.
Also, the risk of a cyber attack could in the long run increase due to these rules’ promotion of data tracking. When customers’ personal data is passed on to third parties, the chances of it being accessed by cyber criminals proportionately rises.
Finally, people tend to store highly sensitive data in IoT devices. But the vast range of these products could increase the impact of a cyber attack ,which is evident from previous events.
What users could do to protect data?
The elevated concerns of web users regarding their privacy can be solved with the application of some security tools. As an internet user, you must take an active role in protecting your online privacy to reduce the chances of falling victim to malicious activity.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN with security features such as 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and secure DNS could help cater to your privacy needs. It allows you to stream and surf the internet without risk of being tracked. This is because a VPN masks your real IP address, which assuming it doesn’t collect logs makes it almost impossible for an internet service provider to identify you.
Also, your internet traffic is encrypted through VPN servers, a process which converts your data into a form that is unclear to cyber goons and prying eyes.
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
It works like a VPN and encrypts your internet traffic. The Tor browser is a modified version of Firefox; it provides you with anonymity by obscuring your IP address. When connected to it, your internet traffic passes through Tor’s different nodes and is encrypted at every point.
This process makes data tracking almost impossible for eyes. However, you should be aware of some important preventive measures that you should take while being connected to the Tor browser, such as avoiding torrent downloads, browsing only HTTPS-protected websites, using privacy-centric browser plugins, and not opening documents downloaded through Tor while using it.
Add-ons extend the functionality of web browser and give it additional features designed to enhance your browsing experience. Through browsing extensions, you can modify a feature to help increase your browser’s performance.
Many web browsers have their own online store through which users can select extensions. For instance, you can find add-ons in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari for free or at a certain cost.
Browsing extensions such as AdBlock are very useful for the users as they prevent intrusive advertisements from being displayed. Also, you could have extensions like Disconnect.me, which allows you to block and monitor more than 2,000 web pages that track your online activities.
Web browsers store a list of every site you visit and display it in their history. It could be helpful for websites to track your online activities. However, while connected to a private browser, your browsing history is not maintained. Additionally, the sites you visit while using a private browsers cannot see your cookies and therefore are unable to track your online preferences.
This feature is available on many web browser with different names. For instance, on Chrome, it is named Incognito mode, whereas on Internet Explorer, it’s called InPrivate.
With American citizens’ online privacy threatened with the implementation of new FCC broadband rules, people have no option other than to implement measures they’ve never considered before. Not only do ISPs’ tracking pose a threat to internet users’ privacy, but it also constitutes a security risk to these individuals.
Therefore, web users need to look at the rules and take appropriate measures to protect their privacy.
About the Author: Peter Buttler is a professional security expert and lecturer. He serves as a digital content editor for different security organizations. While writing he likes to emphasize on recent security trends and some other technology stuff. You can follow him on Twitter.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.