If ISPs could sell our browsing histories, who’s going to be the biggest loser?

Recently, congress had passed a bill to legalize ISP (internet service providers) to collect and sell their users’ browsing history. Theoretically, anyone can purchase an American’s browsing history for a price in the future if this bill becomes a law.  Fortunately, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is still restricted about trading health, financial, social security data, and any contents in direct messaging and emails. About a while ago, whether companies are allowed to sell users’ browsing history and privacy protection were still a debated ethical issue, in the future, probably no more.

“If the bill is signed into law, companies like Cox, Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, and Verizon will have free rein to hijack your searches, sell your data, and hammer you with unwanted advertisements. Worst yet, consumers will now have to pay a privacy tax by relying on VPNs to safeguard their information.” — Electronic Frontier Foundation

Of course there are ways to combat this bill. Users can purchase VPN (virtual private network) and switch their American IP address to other nation’s IP Address may successfully avoid their data being collected by their ISP. Some suggested using TOR, an anonymous browser may hide from ISPs. In the same time, TOR is highly monitored by the FBI since it has high amount of illegal transactions and contents. Lastly, using public computers in public libraries, internet cafe, or schools could minimize search results being collect from personal computers.

In addition, Max Temkin, creator of card game Cards Against Humanity declared he will buy and publish search history of every congressmen.

max temkin

Max Temkin’s response to congress’s decision

Of course, ISP like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast are trying to maintain their reputation by claiming they will be continue protecting users’ privacy and not going to sell their data. However, according to Verizon’s AppFlash‘s privacy policy, which is already sharing their users’ browsing data to its family companies like AOL. The EFF is now claiming AppFlash itself is a spyware when it collects and recommend information for their users, and has the intention to monetize these collected data. In addition, if the ISP care about their users’ privacy, why would they lobby politicians to make them available on the market on the first place?

And now the question is, could anyone buy any Americans’ browsing history? Even if they are from outside of the US? Can they sell browsing histories of a non-American living/visiting the US? Would this mean the infamous Russian spies can have access to American data easier than ever? In the same time, prestigious people like politicians and wealthy individuals should worry more than ordinary folks because their secrets are more important. The media and their political/business rivals can’t wait to dig out and publish their secrets.


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