The commodity of online information intensifies thanks to repealed rules which sought to increase user privacy.
In a previous article, we discussed how new executive orders in the United States are removing securities and protections surrounding online data and information stored in the U.S. by non-U.S citizens.
As a follow-up, it was recently announced that the U.S. Congress is moving to repeal online privacy rules and protections that were created by the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) in October 2016 which were to be put into effect in 2017.
The purpose of these rules was to place sanctions on Internet service providers, requiring them to obtain permission from a user before collecting and selling their online information and browsing activities to advertisers and other 3rd parties.
How Will This Effect User Privacy?
The repeal of these rules is discouraging to users since they would have provided greater online privacy and control over their information and browsing activities.
That being said, the F.C.C. never got around to implementing these rules. Essentially they are being repealed without ever being in place.
As a result, users have never enjoyed the benefit of these rules and the current state of the Internet does not afford for great protection in terms of online privacy. As quoted by Brian Chen of The New York Times, “Internet service providers have always been able to monitor network traffic, see what websites you visit and share some of that information with advertisers.”
Despite this fact, the repeal of the F.C.C. rules should not be taken lightly as a user can still expect significant changes.
What Changes Will This Repeal Bring?
Essentially, without any sort of rules in place, this allows Internet providers a carte-blanche approach to users’ online information.
Internet providers might decide that a more aggressive approach is needed in terms of data collection and online reviewing. Considering the U.S’ current stance on data storage within their borders and the desire to loosen the protections of data owned by non-U.S. citizens, users should be mindful that their online data might be sold to 3rd parties.
How Can I Protect My Online Information?
Protecting your information basically means disassociating your IP and other information from your browsing. This can be done through:
1) Proxy Server – basically your request is relayed to a central server that makes the request for you. The Proxy Server uses a different IP which is shared by other users making it less likely that your specific browsing will be associated with you.
2) Use an encrypted VPN tunnel – the result is the same. You connect to work using a VPN and then browse from work. Essentially you are using the VPN as a proxy.
3) Use the TOR browser – This isn’t for the neophyte but you can also download a browser which is designed to give anonymity to your requests.
Of course, if you are logged into Gmail or some other Internet service while doing this or if cookies are enabled and are being collected, then even using the above methods may result in some identifiable information being exposed.
In Conclusion, Exercise Caution
The repeal of the F.C.C. rules regarding online privacy is a disappointment to many who hoped that their Internet experience would become a little more private and secure. That being said, while putting practices in place to protect online information is a good idea, it is not foolproof. Yet, we cannot completely cut the Internet out of our lives.
So what is a happy medium?
Exercising caution when browsing the Internet is the golden rule. While we might not be able to stop advertisers from tailoring ads based on our online activity this does not mean we have to click on or acknowledge them.
Employing tactics such as those above and safe searching can help decrease the amount of online information you are giving to Internet providers and provide for better peace-of-mind when browsing the Internet.
Chen, Brian. “What the Repeal of Online Privacy Protections Means for You.” The New York Times, March 29, 2017. https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/technology/personaltech/what-the-repeal-of-online-privacy-protections-means-for-you.html?emc=edit_th_20170330&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=42932520&referer (accessed March 30, 2017).
Kang, Cecilia. “Congress Moves to Overturn Obama-Era Online Privacy Rules.” The New York Times, March 28, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/28/technology/congress-votes-to-overturn-obama-era-online-privacy-rules.html?_r=0 (access March 30, 2017).
Courtney Rosebush is a Marketing and Sales Coordinator at Triella, a technology consulting firm specializing in providing technology audits, planning advice, project management and other CIO-related services to small and medium sized firms. Courtney can be reached at 647.426.1004 x 227. For additional articles, go to www.triella.com/publications. Triella is a VMware Professional Partner, Microsoft Certified Partner, Citrix Solution Advisor – Silver, Dell Preferred Partner, Authorized Worldox Reseller and a Kaspersky Reseller.
© 2017 by Triella Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction with credit is permitted.
 Chen, Brian. “What the Repeal of Online Privacy Protections Means for You,” The New York Times, March 29, 2017, https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/technology/personaltech/what-the-repeal of-online-privacy-protections-means-for you.html?emc=edit_th_20170330&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=42932520&referer (accessed March 30, 2017).