The House of Representatives voted in favor of allowing internet service providers to share your browsing history with advertisers. With strong opposition from Democrats, the measure passed by 215-205.
"We are one vote away from a world where your ISP can track your every move online and sell that information to the highest bidder," wrote Kate Tummarello, an advocate for the online privacy rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, before the House voted.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has a slightly different take on things, insisting that this is "the first step toward restoring a consumer-friendly approach to the internet privacy regulation that empowers consumers to make informed choices on if, and how, their data can be shared."
That sounds very capitalist, but sweet. However, what do these "good intentions" mean for us when we go online, hit search, and go? ISPs argues that what they're trying to do isn't very different from how Google and Facebook are already making money.
The current business model is to make customer profiles in order to help advertisers tailor their advertisements to fit whoever is browsing. ISPs wants to take this model, and then ramp it up since they have access to all of your internet history, not just what falls into a certain company's ad network.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had regulations in place that prevented ISPs from selling customer data without the customer's explicit permission. If President Donald Trump signs to overturn these regulations, it means that your private data will be available to the highest bidder.
"Any member of Congress who thinks this bill is a good idea ought to release their personal browsing history to their constituents," said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) in a statement.
So, betting that Trump will put his Hancock on the line, what can you do to protect your privacy?
- Encrypt all your internet traffic.
- Mask your browsing trends by paying for a virtual private network (VPN) service. This costs somewhere between $40 and $60 each year.
- Change your DNS. VPNs can help with that, but just in case, it doesn't hurt to set up a third-party DNS provider.
Unfortunately, this all makes puttering around on the internet much more complicated, but it may be worth it to not have strange eyes on your internet history.