March 24, 2017
Our lives are becoming increasingly dependent on the internet. Whether we’re connecting with friends on Facebook, doing research on Google, or watching cat videos on YouTube, our activity says a lot about us. Have you ever stopped to think about what that information is worth? In 2014 the value of information sold by companies like Facebook and Google was worth over $300 billion in economic activity1. It is almost certainly worth more today.
But what if your internet provider could sell information about you? Unlike the individual websites we visit (Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc.), our internet providers collect a broader picture of our online activity. We also don’t have a plethora of options when it comes to selecting an internet provider, which is why they were classified as public utilities in 2015. Allowing these companies to sell our personal information makes as much sense as allowing phone companies to sell recordings of our phone calls.
Those are some of the new questions that have been popping up since the U.S. Senate moved to eliminate our right to online privacy on Thursday2. It still has to go through the U.S. House of Representatives, but it’s time to consider what we can do to keep our information private going forward. Here are some of the existing solutions out there that help maintain your privacy online:
The Tor web browser masks your identity when visiting websites but is limited in scope and can be very slow
VPN services help hide and protect all the information going between your computer and the internet
These solutions are not comprehensive, but are likely to improve in the future as privacy advocates work to fill in the gaps.