Late on Tuesday, the 28th of March, the US Congress voted in favour of repealing the Obama-era privacy law that forced Internet Service Providers to gain customers’ permission before selling their personal information to advertisers.
The bill, which passed through both the House and Senate with majority Republican votes, has been described by Glenn Greenwald as a devastating blow to individual privacy.
What does this mean for all of us?
In short, this law means that US telecommunications companies are now permitted to store personal information about you and your browsing habits, and sell it on to anyone who is willing to pay for it without your consent. This information can include, but isn’t limited to, your browsing history, the content of your chats and emails, any updates you might share on social media, information about your children, and your location.
According to Vice's coverage on the extent of your personal data now available, every website you visit, every app you use, and every search you conduct online, is now accessible to anyone willing to pay for it, unless you use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
While all this information, in theory, will be stored under an anonymous ID that doesn’t give your real identity away; in reality the information that ISPs can now store about you will be so detailed that it should be easy enough for advertisers and third-parties to identify you anyway. Moreover, it is hard to trust that ISPs will be able to keep this information from falling into the hands of hackers, who will no doubt be eager to access the personas that are now being collected by ISPs.
How can I protect my privacy?
Due to this erosion of online privacy laws, ordinary Americans must now take their privacy into their own hands and opt for measures that use encryption to stop their personal information from being shared online. While encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram and Signal are a start in ensuring that your private conversations can’t be read by third-parties and advertisers, they also only offer a limited level of protection against your ISP. This is due to the fact that your ISP is the gateway to your internet and thus is in a privileged position to spy on every aspect of your online activity.
In order to keep your personal information truly private from your ISP, you must use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN is a type of software that encrypts ALL of the traffic that passes through your ISP, meaning that no matter what you do online, your ISP will be unable to understand and therefore store any of your data. A VPN is the only way that you can keep your conversations, private information, and location truly secret from telecommunication companies.
If you are living in the US and are worried about your personal data being stored and shared online then a VPN such as ZenMate’s can protect your privacy. At ZenMate we have a strict zero logs policy which means that we will never store any of your browsing data. Moreover, as a German VPN company, ZenMate is bound by strict data privacy laws that ban us from selling your data even if we wanted to.
At ZenMate we believe that privacy is our right, and being connected to the internet shouldn’t change that. Get comfortable taking privacy into your own hands.