Can You Really Keep Your Internet Browsing History Private?

The Trump administration’s repeal of a law that required Internet service providers to ask permission before selling details of your online activity has a lot of people wondering how to protect their data.

By Omar GallagaApril 6, 2017 3:35 pm| ,

Many people are worried about a loss of online privacy after President Donald Trump this week signed a law that rolls back an FCC rule requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to ask permission before collecting and selling browsing history, and other personal information about users.

Omar Gallaga, with 512 tech by the Austin American-Statesman says that many people did not realize that the new law does not change how internet providers and advertisers access user information, but rather prevents a previously proposed privacy policy from going into effect. He says that like it or not, user information was already easily accessed by advertisers.

“Every video you stream, every site you access, every bit of internet activity that goes through your ISP can be tracked. That’s the data that can be sold,” Gallaga says.

Now that the sale of internet user information has attracted more attention, some people are looking for ways to protect their privacy. Gallaga says that you can keep your digital footprint anonymous, but they’re not foolproof.

He says one option is using an internet service provider that has explicitly stated it will not sell user information. He says that the drawbacks to this solution are that in rural areas, it’s often the case that only larger providers such as AT&T and Verizon provide internet service, and they already sell user information. Even in more populated areas, larger service providers are usually the cheaper option.

Gallaga also says that using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, allows you to encrypt your data and hide your location. But VPNs often slow internet speed, or are not compatible with popular services like Netflix.

Gallaga says that the bill President Trump signed has drawn more attention to internet privacy and made more people aware of challenges to protecting it.

“This particular bill has woken people up to the idea that, ‘oh wow I didn’t realize that it was that much data and that much internet data that is available being sold.'” he says.
Written by Emma Whalen.