In all the hoopla surrounding the government, Republicans in Congress snuck in S.J. Res. 34 which reversed a previous decision regarding the protection of consumer’s on the internet to Internet Service Providers (ISP). The bill is awaiting signing by the President.
This resolution limits the threat to ISPs (ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner, Cox, Etc.) from generating consumer profiles from your information and either selling it in bundles or using it themselves to direct advertising. If you want to read more about this resolution’s potential implications, you can read more here at Wired.com.
The consumer is not entirely defenseless against this resolution. Here are three things you can do to minimize your digital footprint from ISPs.
When browsing the internet on Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and (for any savage still using it) Internet Explorer, instead of using HTTP, use HTTPS. These are the most common protocols on which you peruse the internet, they are antecedent to the web address you put in, for example, https://www.google.com.HTTPS is a more secure way to browse the internet. It is heavily used to protect banking information or payment transactions on the web.
When connecting through HTTPS, your connection is secured after connecting to the site. Your ISP will know that you connected to my blog, but they will not know that you navigated to and read this particular blog (Screw you Comcast). This will not stop them from building a general profile, but you will prevent them from learning that you recently bought a nice comfortable set of underwear.
The next option you could take is using a VPN. Unfortunately for consumers, these come in varying forms. Typically, they’re application based and can run on any device from free VPN services to subscription-based VPN services. When running functionally, the only thing an ISP should see regarding your information is you connecting to the VPN server. Anything after that will be masked by the VPN.
VPNs can break up your information in many different ways, a very basic way is an encryption on your data packets, filler dummy information breaks up the data, and at the cost of speed, VPNs can even send packets through different routes to break up the entirety of full picture.
Within the next week or two, I will be providing an article with a detailed look and even review some VPNs ranging from paid to free. Linus of Techquickie on YouTube has a quick and informative video on VPNs here.
TOR has often been scrutinized for nefarious acts that can take place in it, but it is an excellent way to protect your information, and if used in conjunction with a VPN it can provide an added layer of protection. TOR mechanisms are based on the structure of an onion. Unlike conventional browsing where an end user connects directly to a website, TOR doesn’t connect an end user to the final location it is trying to browse.
With TOR, a user sends a packet that sheds a layer of the encryption packet and forwards it again where it performs the same process until all the layers are peeled, and it arrives at its destination. TOR will mostly hide the end user by only showing a transfer of information from itself to the first link in its itinerary. Where a packet can make a certain amount of hops with a corresponding amount of layers until it arrives.
With that said, TOR isn’t entirely safe and secure which is why running a VPN in addition to running TOR grants an added layer of security. The TOR Browser runs like any web browser but automatically runs the HTTPS protocol to protect your identifiable information such as your IP address. You can download the TOR browser here.
Linus from Techquickie has a video on TOR as well which you can check out here.
Coupled with all these tools you are ready to block your ISPs from the generating consumer profiles from information they are collecting on you.
It is important to summarize that this is NOT a solution to completely destroy the digital footprint you have. If you’re a frequent user of social media, they have already been collecting your information for years. This is how Google can predict what it is you are likely looking for when you are browsing Google for answers.
These methods are to prevent your ISPs from furthering their agenda towards net neutrality.