On the House vote to wipe away the FCC’s landmark Internet privacy protections

OK, so this is bad. But as always, read up on this and on what you can do to protect yourself. Here are a few pieces to start. Readers, please do add in your own suggestions (both habit and reading) in the comments, or send to me via Twitter.

The Washington Post:

In a party-line vote, House Republicans freed Internet service providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast of protections approved just last year that had sought to limit what companies could do with information such as customer browsing habits, app usage history, location data and Social Security numbers. The rules also had required providers to strengthen safeguards for customer data against hackers and thieves.

From the left:

“Today’s vote means that Americans will never be safe online from having their most personal details stealthily scrutinized and sold to the highest bidder,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

And from the right:

”[Consumer privacy] will be enhanced by removing the uncertainty and confusion these rules will create,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the FCC.

Privacy will be enhanced? Give me a break.

The New York Times:

The bill not only gives cable companies and wireless providers free rein to do what they like with your browsing history, shopping habits, your location and other information gleaned from your online activity, but it would also prevent the Federal Communications Commission from ever again establishing similar consumer privacy protections.

There’s so much more to this. Read up on what’s just happened, then consider what it means to you, consider changing some online habits. With that in mind, a bit more reading:

  • The Tor Project: Read about anonymity and how Tor works, consider downloading Tor or a similar browser. At the very least, this will put one level of indirection between your internet travels and your IP address.

  • How to Go Invisible Online by Kevin Mitnick: This is a very understandable detailed practical guide. Though the focus is on email, it will help you understand how tracking works, how to insert encryption into the process.

  • VPNs are for most people, including you: What is a VPN? Why use one? Good explanations here.

I’m far from an expert on this stuff, so please do weigh in if there are better explanations, better resources to consider.

  • JimCracky

    A bunch of sad mofo’s are running America right now. Protect yourself from them.

    • Adrianaklaws

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  • James Hughes

    I use TunnelBlick, it’s a free open source application. There are some free VPN options out there too, but beware of what it is you are doing when connected using any free source. Unfortunately as ArsTechnica mentions, and is re-itterated in the linked article:

    ArsTechnica tried to find the best VPN service in June 2016, and after months of research, reporter Yael Grauer concluded, “I still can’t make good faith recommendations for VPNs that guarantee the safety and security of interested users.”

    But, even with that said, it’s a start. I think a combination of things, using https, a vpn client etc. can help.

    More importantly, we need to bombard our representatives with demands for internet privacy.

  • Steiner

    You can use this to set up your own. Provides you with a mobileconfig file at the end for easy setup on iOS. https://github.com/trailofbits/algo

  • Mo

    Oh, those pesky burdensome regulations. Weren’t they all so awful? Thank heaven my personal data is in such good hands now.

    Hey, remember when conservatives in Congress agreed to establish a Social Security system only if they were guaranteed it would never be used for identification purposes? Cue the Ken Burns Civil War music.

  • Caleb Hightower

    The Verge has a couple data tables that (originally) broke down who voted for this (but is not showing now) and how much that congressman received in campaign donations from the telecom industry. For a total of about ~$10 MM, the telecom effectively lobbied to get this bill passed rather cheaply.

  • rick gregory

    I use PIA. They talk a good game but of course, I can’t really verify what they say. I CAN verify that it encrypts my traffic which keeps it secure from Comcast as well as others. Something like $3/month if paid yearly. Even if you’re not paranoid about your habits it’s worth it for when you want to use open wifi.

  • Sigivald

    Wiping away privacy protections that never actually got into force, was it not?

    Cue actual examples of the rampant abuses of “privacy” by those horrible ISPs over the past 20 years?


    (“Give me a break” about a claim about “uncertainty in the rules”? Well, maybe.

    But did you read the regs? And if privacy is so important, can’t people get ISPs to compete on that? Every other thing we value in a product, providers seem to compete on, right?

    I can imagine all kinds of “privacy protecting regulations” that are awful and deserve to be never-implemented or repealed despite “privacy”.

    I likewise don’t trust the FCC to establish rules all by itself, because it isn’t on my side, Treebeard-style.)

    • J.

      …and just how are we supposed to get broadband providers to “compete” when most people live in a virtual monopoly market? There is no competition in broadband. Case in point, my city is served by at least three providers. However, they’ve segmented it into territories. Each has its own, and no one offers service in the others. In order to change providers, we’d have to move.

      Don’t forget as well, that this FCC is willing to entertain merger proposals amoung broad providers. At least that’s the message they’re sending.

      The “competition” argument, at least as it applies to broadband is hollow.

  • install http://www.cs.nyu.edu/trackmenot/ in your browsers and set it to its most aggressive setting. flood their systems with bogus queries. the more people that do this, the more difficult it’ll be for isps to suss signal from noise.

    someone needs to port trackmenot to safari.