Last week, Congress voted to repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) regulations regarding broadband privacy. The privacy regulations previously required Internet Services Providers (ISPs) to request permission to collect and sell users’ personal information to advertisers.
Since the reversal, Internet users are wondering what this means for their personal information and how it will be used. ISPs are not the only firms gathering user information for profit, other major websites including Google and Facebook sell user data to third-party advertisers.
Options may be limited for switching ISPs in certain areas of the U.S., but there are ways to prevent personal data being sold to third parties.
- Check policies
- To get a better idea of how your personal information is being used by an ISP, the best place to start is your policy. Many major ISPs signed a pledge during January to let users refuse data being sold to third-party marketers. AT&T and Verizon have both issued statements since last week indicating they will not sell users information, but reviewing policies for all providers is a safe bet.
- Use encrypted sites
- Certain websites encrypt the connection between their server and user’s browser. These sites are commonly utilize “https” or a lock icon in the address bar. This type of encryption prevents third parties from monitoring data, but still allows ISPs to see the domain name.
- Check ad profiles
- Sites notorious for selling information to third parties, such as Facebook, Google and Amazon, typically have features for users to view their “advertising profile.” Users are able to log into their accounts, then visit their advertising profile and edit their activity.
- Look into alternatives
- If users don’t agree with certain ISPs or websites’ privacy policies, there is always the opportunity to switch providers. Unfortunately, ISPs have much fewer alternatives than search engines and social platforms. But, Internet users always have the option to opt out of social media, and use privacy-optimized search engines such as Duck Duck Go.
While the FCC and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are working together to regulate ISPs accessing information, there are still precautions to minimize the amount of data they access. The first step is reviewing an ISP’s policy to understand what information they’re gathering, then using encrypted sites, checking and profiles and looking into alternative providers.