Internet Privacy Takes A Hit

Your internet privacy took yet another hit when Congress voted to make it legal for your internet service provider (ISP) to sell your browsing history, and President Trump signed the bill into law two days ago.

Regardless of whether you clear your browser history or search the internet in stealth mode, neither of those tactics will prevent your private user information from being sold for profit – they only affect what is stored locally on your computer or devices (I hope it goes without saying that your activity on a mobile phone or tablet is included in this conversation), not what your ISP is watching and logging.

That doesn’t mean you are helpless to protect yourself! Here are three strategies to consider, which may help you protect your individual, company, and client data.

Strategy #1: Browse the internet using a virtual private network (VPN)

This is something you should be doing anyway, if you like to work in coffee shops or if you travel for business (and especially if you’re a digital nomad, and probably doing both).

Internet Privacy VPN

In simple terms, a VPN acts like a bridge between you and another location. The information that passes over the VPN bridge is encrypted, meaning it’s difficult or impossible for your information to be seen or recorded.

VPN services come with different features, different levels of encryption, and (of course) different prices. If you are looking for comprehensive information about how to select the right service for you, this article by How To Geek is your best bet.

If you’d like to receive three quick recommendations on VPN services without doing a lot of homework on your part, I can suggest the following options:

Nord VPN is our in-house favorite – but if you’re looking to shop around, here are a few more options:

Tunnel Bear is a good option for travelers. It has free and low-cost options (plus adorable branding).
Surf Easy offers bank-grade encryption and affordable monthly or annual pricing.
Strong VPN might be overkill for casual users, but they offer robust services which are still reasonably affordable.

All of these options are easy to use, and the most expensive plan among them is $15 a month – so there’s really very little excuse not to protect yourself using a VPN service.

Strategy #2: Give your business to an ISP that respects your privacy

This is something you should consider doing as a matter of principle, but it also adds a level of internet privacy protection. I realize that many people live in rural areas where there is not a lot of competition between ISPs (the town where my family lives has exactly two ISPs to choose from, and neither are on this list). But if you live in a more populated area, please consider switching your ISP to one of these companies:

Aeneas Communications
CREDO Mobile
Cruzio Internet
Davis Community Network
Digital Service Consultants Inc.
Enguity Technology Corp
Etheric Networks
First Network Group
Gold Rush Internet
Hoyos Consulting LLC
Hubris Communications
Mimir Networks
Mother Lode Internet
Om Networks
Pacific Internet
Tekify Fiber & Wireless
Ting Internet
Visionary Communications

Strategy #3: Opt out of targeted advertising

This is definitely the weakest option in the list, but if you’re unable to change your ISP, then contact them and ask them what their privacy policy is, and how you can opt out of targeted advertising. While this step does not provide perfect protection of your data, it’s mostly marketers who want to buy your browsing history anyway, so this at least provides an added layer of protection.

For your convenience, here is a direct link to the opt-out forms for three popular ISPs:

Comcast (sign in first)
Obviously, combining Strategy #1 with either Strategy #2 or #3 will provide the best internet privacy protection, but it’s important to remember that no solution is perfect, and your privacy is always under increasing threat from government surveillance as well as private companies and even hackers. Although internet privacy is a less intriguing topic to most people than the topics making sensational headlines, it’s important to keep yourself informed about legislation and technology, both of which are constantly evolving.

Do you have another strategy to protect your internet privacy? Share it in the comments!

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