In October of 2016, the FCC set new regulations in motion that would have made it illegal for internet service providers like Verizon and AT&T to sell your personal information to advertisers (unless you gave them permission to do so). These regulations would have gone into effect at the end of 2017, had Congress not decided to pull them from consideration a few months ago. 

The backlash against this decision has been significant, with opponents of this decision upset that providers have access to each user's browser history. Congressional members who approved this decision have claimed that companies like Facebook and Google already have permission to sell their users' personal information, so making it illegal for ISPs is unfair. 

If you're someone who falls into the camp that's worried about these privacy regulations not going through, there are a few ways you can work against your ISP collecting your personal information. At the very least, these will make that task a lot more difficult for them. 

The first option is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network), which creates a secure, encrypted connection. VPNs are used by many companies whose employees are in different physical locations, but still need secure access to files or a shared drive. 

Another tool, called TrackMeNot, was created by a philosopher named Helen Nissenbaum, and designed to be used on websites that offer a search function (like Amazon or Google). While working on an ethics study, she discovered that Google was storing her search history, and became fairly upset about it. However, rather than seeking to cloak her online presence, TrackMeNot works essentially in the exact opposite way. Her tool works by automatically sending search queries in the background, overloading whatever site you choose to install it on, and obscuring your real searches with a barrage of random, false ones. The caveat with this tool is that the jury's still out on whether or not it actually works. 

In the same vein of working against data collection by way of obfuscation, Nissenbaum has created another tool, a plugin called AdNauseum. Designed to obscure the user from advertisers, AdNauseum works by automatically clicking on every available ad on any website visited. The idea is that each (hidden) ad click registers a visit on the ad networks' databases, rendering tracking and targeting futile. 

Whatever new regulations develop over the coming months and years, it's clear that people will continue to build a better mousetrap to fight against deregulation. And although not everyone is bothered by the idea of their ISP collecting and selling their information, it's certainly an issue that affects anyone participating online. 

Join Our Mail List