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The ISPs, Internet, VPNs, and Advertisers- What You Need to Know

Caitlin LaCour

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The Internet- just about everybody uses it, or has at least once. It’s a tool to find information and entertainment, but also can be used for illegal activity- the Deep Web, for example, is a place where people can purchase illegal drugs, high-powered weapons of destruction such as bombs and RPGs, and illegal pornography.

The internet can be a dangerous weapon, which is why over the years, especially after 9/11, measures have been enacted to regulate the Internet. The Patriot Act gave the NSA the right to spy on citizens in their own homes, a fact that was revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The NSA can tap into phone lines to hear your conversations, intercept text messages, and see web browsing history in the name of national security. They claim to stop terrorist attacks before they happen by tracking certain ‘suspicious’ people, for example, when somebody purchases a large amount of fertilizer, they could be suspect of making bombs. However, this power has been abused by the NSA- Snowden reported NSA agents spying on the common citizen. Citizens who think they have nothing to hide.

You are not safe on the Internet. You are not anonymous. You are being monitored and watched constantly- by the government, by hackers, by dataminers. You are nothing but a series of numbers.

And now people can profit from it.

A bill has been proposed for ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to sell your Internet browsing history. That’s right- everything you’ve done, everything you’ve ever searched, everything you’ve ever written in what you thought was a private setting could be sold for a profit to the highest bidder. This information is dangerous- even if you think you have nothing to hide, your browsing history can be manipulated to look incriminating easily. Just because you don’t purchase drugs online or browse illegal sites doesn’t mean you’re safe.

Advertisers rejoice. If you do searches for a funeral home after a loved one dies, or searches for new recipes, advertisers who now have your browsing history can purposefully inject ads specific to your searches. Once again, you will not be a person- you’ll be nothing but a dollar sign. And they don’t need your permission to sell either.

VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, can help protect your browsing history from others by encrypting your data and making it unusable for anyone other than yourself. However, even VPNs cannot stop the effect if the bill passes.

The Senate action “would allow Comcast, Verizon, Charter, AT&T, and other broadband providers to take control away from consumers and relentlessly collect and sell their sensitive information without the consent of that family,”  Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts said. That sensitive information includes health and financial information, and information about children, he said. ISPs want to “draw a map” of where families shop and go to school, and sell it to data brokers “or anyone else who wants to make a profit off you,” Markey said.

Introduced by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Senate Joint Resolution 34 will overturn an Obama-era law that required ISPs to obtain permission before selling information to advertisers and other companies. With a final tally of 50-48, the vote was entirely along party lines with two republican abstentions.

And now it’s up to Congress to decide what is more important- money or privacy. If you want to stop this bill from passing, contact your representative. Fight against the injustice- privacy is not a privilege. You are more than a name on a list or a number in a ledger. You are a person with a voice- make it heard.

 

cover photo by Elsa Hillis

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1 Comment

One Response to “The ISPs, Internet, VPNs, and Advertisers- What You Need to Know”

  1. tori schmalsteig on April 5th, 2017 9:42 am

    they passed the bill >:(

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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The ISPs, Internet, VPNs, and Advertisers- What You Need to Know