Your browsing history is now for sale and companies are out shopping just for that

Since the year of 2015 when the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) under President Barack Obama set up a regulation to protect internet users privacy, people in the United States may have been able to freely browse the internet without being hounded by advertisements related to the websites we visited. The FCC, due to this new bill( Senate Joint Resolution 34- A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, united States Code, of the rule submitted by the FCC relating to ‘Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services”) (ProPublica), is prohibited from making new regulations in the future. While that happens a bit now, it is likely that it is nothing compared to what is to come. On Tuesday, March 28 a bill was barely passed to invalidate this regulation. Sean Spicer, the White House Spokesperson hasn’t announced when Donald Trump will sign this new bill.

This impacts all those in the United States, how does it impact you? Well, this bill now allows internet providers to sell what it knows about you, for example, advertisers may now receive access to your financial information, health information, web browsing history and even your geolocation. They can even track sites visited made in private or incognito mode. Now, without your permission or even knowledge advertisers can buy information other browsers know about you.

Unwanted ads due to the sale of browsing history.

There are things you can do to protect yourself, paying for a virtual private network (VPN) service is the safest and most reliable way to go. VPN services do not hide your browsing history from law enforcement and the VPN service has access as well.

St.Kate’s students will be impacted just as everyone else, Yuki Borman, Elementary Education ‘20 explains that it doesn’t actually bother her, She says, “I am probably in a minority when I say it doesn’t bug me all that much, but that probably has more to do with the fact that I already expected that to be going on rather than that I think it’s okay, if that makes sense? I mean, I’m not surprised, to say the least. The internet is a big, big place and I have always sort of gone into it with the mindset that anything I search, share, whatever, is out there to be used by marketers and what-not. I wish it bothered me more but I guess that just says something about my expectations for society today. I don’t think I’ll have a different experience, personally, and I don’t necessarily think that it’s going to be changing. Like a lot of bills passed [by] both parties it seems like the headlines get a lot of attention but by the time the bill is actually acted upon the hype is gone. But for people who are more sensitive about their internet privacy, I can see this being an issue. I guess it’s just another win for big companies? I don’t really know how I feel about people making money off of my information but then again I am a part of the consumer society that helps fuel this kind of things in the end. It’s not that I condone it, I just didn’t really expect much else.”

Her point is valid, and Borman’s approach to online usage is a good one to go by. Most people will tell you that there is a lot of information available about an individual just based on posts they have made. Especially on sites such as Twitter where it’s sort of a free-for-all with limited privacy settings, although this is a bit different. Now people’s browsing histories are for sale.

Another student, Hannah Steinhoff, Social work ‘20 has a similar take on this new bill. Steinhoff says, “Honestly it doesn’t bother me. Internet services already know your location and other stuff so it doesn’t bother me that much that they are doing something with it. It is kind of creepy but I can tolerate it.” Steinhoff also went on to explain that she doesn’t think she will change anything she is doing online, even with this new bill.

Isabelle Saul-Hughes ASL Interpreting ‘20, weighs in with a different angle on this, she says, “It makes me a little nervous, I guess especially considering who companies might be selling my information to I would guess advertisers, which is one thing, but the idea of my financial and health information, and even worse my geolocation, being available to presumably anyone, frightens me, just because of my and my sister’s experiences with dangerous men. I think too that, considering the more modern processes of online banking and KatePay, I wonder what might happen if that kind of information was available to a buyer (whoever that might be). I know that sites like KatePay do take steps to ensure security at least, which is a comfort. I don’t know if it will change my internet use much, because really websites like Facebook and Gmail and really anything that uses cookies already kind of does that, in an attempt to enhance the consumer experience through advertisements.”

This news, while being nothing new to some, it may be alarming for others. There are other options out there like VPN’s, so don’t fret too much. Nonetheless, it’s probably safe to say we all should be mindful of our actions on and off-line.

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