On April 3, 2017, President Donald Trump signed a law effectively rolling back Obama-era regulations placed on ISPs and how they collect and share your data.
Under the rollbacks, ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon can collect and sell customer metadata, including:
- Your location
- Which apps you use
- Which sites you visit
Unfortunately, it’s still unclear exactly what ISPs do with your data. Third-party marketers and advertisers pay top dollar for a person’s browsing habits, but there may be a more nefarious side to how companies profit from your private information.
Worse still, these ISPs are under no obligation to let you know how they handle your data. According to EFF staff member Jeremy Gillula, “Your ISP can sell your traffic without any permission, and it’s unclear if they would even have to tell you they were doing it.”
Don’t let your ISP access or sell your personal data. Here are three things you can do to safeguard your privacy.
1. Browse the Tor network
The Tor network (also known as the dark web), is the safest and most anonymous way to browse online. Tor routes your internet traffic through a random series of different servers (“nodes”) to hide the origin of your data and conceal your identity.
Developed by the U.S. Navy, the Tor network has since become a nonprofit tool that helps protect users’ anonymity.
Learn more about using Tor with this beginner’s guide to Tor.
2. Use a VPN (and keep it connected)
One of the easiest and most effective ways to bypass your ISP’s prying eyes is to use a VPN. When you connect to a VPN server, you can mask your IP address and location and reroute your network traffic through an encrypted tunnel. With a VPN, you can browse without worrying about your ISP collecting your browsing history and personal information.
Although your browsing information is safe when you’re connected to a VPN, you might be wondering: What happens if the VPN connection drops? A reliable VPN will have a kill switch that stops all internet traffic to and from your computer until your connection to the VPN is active again.
Additionally, adding your VPN to a router will encrypt and protect every device connected to it. (You can read more about how to set up a VPN for your router here.)
3. Switch to a more a privacy-conscious ISP
While internet giants like Comcast are notorious for having little regard for customer anonymity, there are other ISPs that take a more hands-off approach when it comes to your privacy.
Lesser-known ISPs like Sonic offer gigabit fiber internet while preserving your privacy. Better still, they keep data retention to a minimum and don’t track your browsing habits Plus, they’re vocal privacy advocates.
Check which ISP options are available in your area. If possible, go with a service whose privacy values are in line with yours.
General privacy tips
In addition to the above, here are a few general tips to help keep your information private.
1. Use HTTPS Everywhere
Because half of the internet is still unencrypted, take extra care to make sure you’re browsing safe sites. Download the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension to automatically rewrite your browser requests to encrypt all of your browsing traffic.
Created through a partnership between the EFF and the Tor Project, HTTPS Everywhere is a simple and unobtrusive way to help keep your data safe.
2. Block trackers
While Privacy Badger helps block trackers and unwanted scripts, uBlock Origin uses less memory to help increase browser speeds and blocks those pesky ads from popping up in your browser.
Best of all, they’re both free and easy to install.
Safe and happy browsing, everyone!