Last year, Federal Communications Commission had passed strict privacy regulations (not yet in effect), banning ISPs (Internet Service Providers) from selling their subscriber’s browsing data without consent. Last week, these regulations were reversed in the Senate, allowing ISPs to collect all possible information about their subscribers.
Such data includes precise geolocation, financial information, health information, children’s information and web browsing history. This also means that from now on, an Internet provider can sell their users’ private data to third parties, such as ad buyers, ad aggregators, and anyone else who might want to use it for their purposes.
True, FCC’s regulations did not cover Facebook and Google that are able to collect data without any bigger restrictions. However, putting a brake on ISPs data collection/ and sharing powers would have saved Internet users’ Internet browsing privacy.
This goes even further; the FCC is now also banned from passing even less strict regulations in the future.
How do ISPs collect data?
Besides retaining and selling user’s browsing history, ISPs have specific ways to collect data, some more intrusive than others.
° Deep packet inspection. Deep packet inspection allows an ISP to scan the packets of data a user sends across the web, and is generally used for user protection, when checking for viruses or prioritizing data. However, it can also be used to log and sell anonymized user data in batches that include location, name, age, shopping records and so on.
° Monitoring Internet activity. On many occasions, ISPs monitor user web activity to track, log and store data. This is a very lucrative amount of information for any company to have, and several ISPs tend to collect and sell this data to advertising companies.
° Tracking user location through mobile devices. When it comes to web-enabled mobile devices and how they are used, ISPs can track their location throughout the day, monitoring user whereabouts in real time.
° Complying with government’s data collection laws. Another requirement for data collection comes to ISPs from the government. Mandatory data retention laws are different across the globe, and most force ISPs to collect and store their customers’ data for a period of time. When such large amounts of data are collected and/or shared, there is always the risk of system malfunctions or hacking attacks, and huge amounts of people’s personal information can end up in the wrong hands.
Is it still possible to avoid ISP data tracking and collection?
There are still a few ways to protect one’s Internet privacy and avoid personal data collection. Internet users only must take a few simple steps.
According to Marty P. Kamden, CMO of NordVPN (Virtual Private Network), “Internet users should regularly delete cookies, install anti-virus and anti-tracking software, and make sure not to enter personal passcodes and credit card information when using open Wi-Fi networks. The best known method to keep your information private and encrypted from ISPs is a VPN.”
A VPN encrypts user data through a secure tunnel before accessing the Internet – this protects any sensitive information about one’s location by hiding their IP address. A VPN connects a user to the Internet through an alternative path than an ISP. The only information visible to an ISP is that a user is connected to a VPN server and nothing else. All other information is encrypted by the VPN’s security protocol.
To find out more about NordVPN, go to www.nordvpn.com.